Spring and summer in Tennessee is a time of celebration. We celebrate life, renewal, hope and opportunity of another growing season. It is fitting that many communities across our beautiful state choose to recognize the importance of agriculture to their region. From strawberry festivals to dogwood festivals to the great Grainger County Tomato festival which will be celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, Tennessee honors the bounty and beauty of our natural resources.
We celebrate irises, white squirrels, cotton, soybeans and our state’s bountiful forests. There will be plenty of county fairs, tractor shows and horse shows and cattle and swine shows to cater to everyone’s taste. We’ll even have a world championship horse show called - you guessed it - “The Celebration” to showcase the iconic Tennessee Walking Horse.
These events highlight an important part of our culture. They also showcase the small towns that host them. Rural Tennessee is our breadbasket and the cradle of all that is beautiful in Tennessee. There are plenty of challenges, but there is plenty of what is right. I come from a town of 291 proud citizens. I was privileged to serve as mayor of McNairy County with a population of just over 26,000. I know rural Tennessee. I know the people. I’ve seen their work ethic and the love they have for the place they call home.
We each have a story to tell and I urge you to tell it well. As we work to build our rural communities across the state we should each be mindful of our responsibility to be active and engaged in promoting our area. We have to ensure that education, transportation, health care and workforce development are paramount to our priorities. We can do all of that and we can still remember who we are. Take time to visit your neighbors and spend time with family. Enjoying several hours at the local festival can be a great vacation! It also keeps our money at home. Take a drive to the one in an adjoining county or even across the state. You’ll be treated like a neighbor.
We live in a beautiful state filled with amazing people. Our communities have stories to tell. The way we feed, clothe and shelter our families is ever changing. Farmers and foresters utilize technologies that were unheard of just a few years ago. Our agricultural-based festivals are opportunities to learn more about how your food is produced and how our natural resources are protected. They are also all about what our country is, celebrating who we are and celebrating each other.
Tennessee agriculture has more than a $70 billion impact on the state’s economy. Sixty-seven thousand farms operate on about 10.5 million acres of land. Another 11 million acres host our state’s forestland. Take time to get to know your neighbor, strengthen your community and enjoy the ice cream and barbecue as you celebrate Tennessee agriculture. I’ll see you there.
Tennessee Commissioner of Agriculture