Local Resources for Growers through the UT Agriculture Extension and NRCS Services,
by Veronica Limeberry
Even though the summer season continues on and you may have more tomatoes than you could ever imagine what to do with, fall and winter are creeping up on us. That means getting ready for the next year! There’s lots to be done after the harvest, including preparing your soil, finding cost-share programs for new tools and technologies to improve your harvest, finding new marketing outlets, and more. Learn how your local UT or NRCS agent can help.
Do you know how your UT Extension Agent can help you? Your local county office is ready to share info for the hobby and professional grower. This includes info on fall growing strategies, improving your crops for profit, keeping up to date on the latest regulations, and improving your harvest with information from the latest research. Additionally, the UT Extension offices can help with understanding food safety requirements and certification regulations for processing value-added products. Finally, UT Extension Agents also connect youth and communities to local agriculture through 4-H and community service programs. Make sure to check your local office’s website frequently for upcoming workshops and events, and contact your local agent to see if they publish a regular newsletter! This will keep you informed and help you prepare for your upcoming growing season. Find your county UT Extension Agent here.
As an example, see the Washington County Extension Office’s latest newsletter and upcoming events: Fall 2014 Newsletter.
Local Washington County UT Extension agent, Anthony Shelton, shares that the Tennessee Department of Agriculture offers funding in the form of the Tennessee Ag Enhancement Program for both crop diversification and livestock operations (including hay and grain crops). He especially encourages producers to take a look at the crop diversification cost-share program. While the 2014 application period is closed, the 2015 application period will open later this winter. You can find the applications at the Tennessee Ag Enhancement Program page. For assistance, you can contact your UT Extension Agent.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is a locally-based branch of the USDA. They offer cost-share and grant programs, with a special emphasis on soil health. You can learn more about the Tennessee NRCS offices here. East TN offices can be located here. Additionally, your local NRCS agent can help you learn more about the current Farm Bill regulations, agricultural business management, land easements, and improving water quality. This year the NRCS is offering $15 million nationwide for targeted conservation efforts for producers.
Make sure to get in touch with your local UT Ag Extension and NRCS agents to see what programs you qualify for, and visit their websites frequently—or receive their newsletter if they offer one–to know when important workshops or events are coming up!