Tennessee took center stage and promoted its diverse natural resources, agriculture, and internationally renowned music as the Spotlight State at the 40th annual Sunbelt Agricultural Expo in Moultrie, Georgia.
The Sunbelt Ag Expo, an agricultural-based trade show, is known as North America’s Premier Farm Show. Drawing more than 80,000 visitors every year, the Expo includes more than 1,200 exhibitors showcasing the latest in farming technology on a 600-acre working research farm.
This year's Expo ran from October 17-19.
Tennessee’s unique Spotlight State Exhibit invited Sunbelt guests to experience “The Soundtrack of America – Made in Tennessee.” The exhibit featured the state’s cultural diversity, agricultural history and the spectacular scenery and experiences available to residents and visitors.
Dr. Tim Cross, Chancellor, University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture, told the audience gathered for the Spotlight State ribbon cutting ceremony that agriculture is the state’s No.1 industry. “But 90 percent of farm families have off-farm income, so rural development is important to the state. Agriculture is a $75 billion industry, accounting for 13 percent of the state’s economy,” Cross said. “But less than 1 percent of the state’s citizens are involved in agriculture.”
“We are tickled to be the Spotlight State this year,” said Jai Templeton, Tennessee Commissioner of Agriculture.
“Agriculture is the No. 1 industry because of partnerships,” Templeton said. He singled out Tennessee Farm Bureau and The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture (UTIA) as key examples of partners working together to support and enrich agriculture.
Cross said UTIA helps that effort through the College of Agriculture. “We are proud that UTIA is attracting bright and talented students.” Currently enrollment is close to 1,500.
PREPARING FOR HIGH TECH
He says a critical goal of the college is to prepare leaders to develop “high tech solutions to agricultural problems. This is a great time to be a part of the Institute of Agriculture.”
Cross added that the institute also maintains “a consistent message of the Land Grant University mission. That mission is as vital now as at any time in our nation. We play an important role in assisting producers to produce an abundant food supply.”
He says agriculture research will be critical in feeding the world in the future.
The Spotlight exhibit showed visitors that Tennessee’s agricultural industries are many and diverse. The cattle and poultry industries rank at the top. Soybean, corn and cotton fields, as well as and nursery crops flourish.
Combined, agricultural and forestry production support the state’s economy to the tune of $74.8 billion annually. Of more than 67,300 farming operations in the state, 1,800 have achieved Century Farm status. Many are open as agritourism destinations.
Templeton said, “We are proud of Tennessee’s agricultural heritage and history, but you don’t have to come from a farming background to appreciate what our state has to offer.” He said the Spotlight exhibit offered visitors a comprehensive look at what Tennessee offers.
The Tennessee Spotlight State Exhibit is a partnership of the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture; Tennessee State University Cooperative Extension Service; Tennessee Departments of Agriculture, Tourist Development and Environment and Conservation; Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation; University of Tennessee Institute for Public Service; and USDA’s Farm Service Agency, Rural Development, Natural Resources Conservation Service and National Agricultural Statistics Service in Tennessee. UT Extension Dean Robert Burns served as the chair of the Spotlight State Planning Committee.