UT Extension’s Tennessee Value-Added Beef Program Works To Boost Rural Economy

By Robert Burns, Associate Dean, UT Extension

The beef cattle industry plays a significant role in Tennessee. About 50 percent of Tennessee’s 68,000 farm operations raise and sell beef cattle. Tennessee beef cattle production has historically been forage-based cow-calf operations where the calves are sold and transported out of Tennessee to be finished. Tennessee beef producers have recognized an opportunity to increase their profits by increasing the share of the consumer dollar they keep by retaining ownership longer through finishing, harvesting, and direct marketing their beef to consumers in Tennessee.

The Tennessee Value-Added Beef Program was developed by Extension specialists in the Center for Profitable Agriculture, Animal Science, and Food Science and Technology in response to Tennessee cattle producers asking an increasing number of questions about developing business enterprises beyond traditional cow-calf production systems. UT Extension and the Center for Profitable Agriculture staff have led the development of the Tennessee Value-Added Beef Program to provide answers to not only these questions, but to help such enterprises successfully manage the challenges encountered when developing a new value-added business. The program was initiated in 2011 and has provided a range of educational programming and materials including conferences, workshops, webinars, and publications. Beef consumer market research was conducted, and educational programs were focused on all aspects of marketing value-added beef. Producer outreach programs also included financial analysis, as well as how to meet regulatory requirements and develop relationships with processors. The Value-Added Beef Program team was a cooperative educational outreach effort that included twenty members from five agencies and thirty Tennessee Extension agents. Over the four-year period in which the Tennessee Value-Added Beef Program has been operating, Tennessee farms have greatly expanded their value-added beef marketing. Specifically, the number of farm-based retail meat permits issued by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture from December 2011 to May 2015 (from 57 to 142) has increased 149 percent. In this same period, the number of freezer beef operations listed on the Pick Tennessee Products website increased by 47.5 percent (from 80 to 118), and the number of meat marketing farms listed on the Pick Tennessee Products “retail meats” website increased by 83 percent (from 48 to 88). A complete overview of the Tennessee Value-Added Beef Program is available.

Value-added opportunities such as the Tennessee Value-Added Beef Program present a very real opportunity to increase income in rural economies across Tennessee. The Value-Added Beef Program’s extensive and diverse outreach effort established a foundation for providing next-generation decision and farm management tools to current value-added beef entrepreneurs in Tennessee. The program also established a collaborative network and working model for marketing outreach and education focused on other value-added enterprises. For more information on the Value-Added Beef Program, please see a summary report that outlines the impact of this program.

No Fooling—
New Biosystems and Soil Science Head Julie Carrier Arrives On April 1
Eric Drumm sets sights on teaching & research after eight years at helm

The new head of the Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science plans to take up the reins on April 1st. The UT Institute of Agriculture welcomes Julie Carrier from the University of Arkansas where she served as a professor in the College of Engineering Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering. Her research interests, which include promoting the use of renewable energy production, specifically biofuels and biochemical production from cellulosic biomass, have twice won her recognition as an

outstanding researcher. Yet, she is also known for her ability to provide outstanding service to students. Carrier has won four student service and teaching awards since 2003.

Scott Senseman, head of the Department of Plant Sciences, led the search committee that resulted in Carrier’s selection. He says her breadth of experience has prepared her well. “It is obvious that Dr. Carrier has a passion for both undergraduate and graduate students. We are very fortunate to have someone with her depth of expertise, strong record of research excellence, and overall stature in the Institute.”

Upon her selection as BESS head, Carrier said, “I am honored to have been selected and look forward to joining the faculty and staff of BESS to help support our missions of teaching, research, and extension. I want to maintain the great work our faculty does and continue advancing BESS as a department. I am looking forward to moving to beautiful East Tennessee and joining UTIA.”

UTIA Chancellor Larry Arrington expressed his appreciation to Eric Drumm for his outstanding leadership as BESS department head. Drumm became head in August 2008, after twenty-five years of service as a faculty member in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UT Knoxville.

Drumm is returning to a teaching and research role upon Carrier's arrival. He will teach in the Construction Science program, support the Biosystems Engineering Senior Design sequence, and conduct research in the area of soil and water engineering. He and Angel Palomino from CEE have an active research project funded by the U.S. Office of Surface Mining related to the properties of fine coal refuse.

“Although serving as department head can be challenging at times, it can also be very rewarding,” Drumm says. “For me, I have enjoyed getting to know the department faculty and learning about their research, teaching, and extension expertise. I have also taken great pleasure in seeing the faculty grow and celebrate their successes. The department head role is the only campus job with close student and faculty engagement, but also a perspective of the administration.”

Summing up his eight years as head, Drumm says, “It has been a very good experience.”

UTIA Home to Three President's Award Finalist

The President’s Awards are the highest honors presented by the University of Tennessee to employees. The recognition is for outstanding contributions of staff and faculty toward fulfillment of the University’s mission.

Nominees were identified from among the entire, statewide UT workforce. A selection committee narrowed the field of nominees to a group of about twenty-five finalists and then recommended prospective winners to President DiPietro, who chose the final award recipients. Each of three winners was honored for exceptional contributions in one of the University’s three mission focus areas: education, research, and outreach.

The first class of President’s Awards honorees—the 2016 group—was announced live during the State of the University of Tennessee address and webcast in February.


The Educate Award honors accomplishments that enhance educational offerings and diverse learning environments.

Elizabeth Strand, associate clinical professor of biomedical and diagnostic services with the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture, has been the visionary leader in veterinary social work and has revolutionized student education in veterinary medicine. She invented the term veterinary social work and serves as the director of the first program of its kind in the country.

The Discover Award honors discoveries and applications of knowledge.

Timothy Rials, professor in the department of forestry wildlife and fisheries at the University of Tennessee Knoxville and director of the UT Center for Renewable Carbon, is a world leader in high-value biochemical co-products. He and his team have been awarded more than $36 million in external funding to support bioenergy programs. He has been a leader in the United States Sun Grant Initiative and UT was selected as the Southeast Sun Grant Center of Excellence.

The Connect Award honors outreach, engagement, and service efforts and programs.

Larry Moorehead, Moore County extension director, works tirelessly to help his clientele. He worked with livestock producers to incorporate spent stillage from Jack Daniels into feed rations. It increased profitability for livestock producers and solved waste issues for the distiller. He has increased participation in 4-H as he developed facilities to hold livestock and horse educational events. The Moore County Commission named the livestock pavilion the Moorehead Pavilion in his honor. He also provided leadership in developing athletic fields and parks. He has led efforts to landscape local schools and improve high school athletic facilities.

Department Stories
Get to Know the Department of Animal Science

By Neal Schrick, Head, Animal Science

“Animal Science”—Most of our clientele (students, producers, industry) focus on the first word, “Animal,” and pass over the second word, “Science.” However, science is what we
are about in the Department of Animal Science. Our faculty in research, Extension, and teaching are all top scientists in their area of specialty. They are either top in their area of Extension programming, experiential teaching in the classroom and labs, or experimental research and methodology—the three big E’s as described to me years ago as a beginning graduate student. Many of our new undergraduate students come into the department to become veterinarians due to their passion for animals, but many also come to enjoy the “science” of their departmental training during their tenure. Our exit interviews indicate that nearly 70 percent of our students enroll in some sort of postprofessional program upon graduation, including veterinary, medical, law, pharmacy, graduate, or physical therapy schools. Not only are we training students to work in the production industry, but the teaching/experience they gain from our faculty prepares them for other careers of their choosing.

Developing tomorrow’s animal agriculture leaders is a goal of the department. Even though our undergraduate numbers are close to 600, we have a small faculty and are still able to be efficient in teaching and providing the students with the experiences needed for their career opportunities. We push students to gain experience through internships, undergraduate research experience working in our research labs, and experience learning opportunities. UTIA AgResearch and Extension have really stepped forward in assisting the department by providing the “Live and Learn” opportunity at the East Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center and the relatively new Extension internships. We continue to strongly encourage livestock judging team experience for our students and the vast opportunities that come from being part of this long-term program. With new faculty, the horse judging team is the next opportunity for our students to gain the ability to evaluate and present their findings to a set of officials. We use this same approach in training our students in research as they present their findings at research meetings both locally and globally. As often mentioned, the ability to speak gets you a job and is the reason we encourage students to speak in front of a class, provide reasons to a livestock official, or participate in our mock interview process.

However, for most of our faculty, research is their bread and butter. As faculty have retired, we have hired excellent, young scholars in their research areas. Actually, our younger faculty now outnumber our more senior faculty, which has led to not only new cutting-edge research but also to new teaching capabilities. The energy of the new faculty
has been made possible by the mentoring of our senior faculty and the dedication that they and former faculty established for the department. The excitement for research is contagious as new faculty submit grant after grant in search of funding opportunities. The department focuses on three areas of research: reproductive physiology, nutritional physiology, and animal health and well-being. These areas of research are spread across beef and dairy cattle, poultry, and a bit of swine, most with some relevance to human medicine as well. Over the past couple of years, we have attempted to rebuild our focus in beef cattle research as well as our focus area of nutritional physiology. Our efforts have been successful, and now we must focus on rebuilding our reproductive physiology group, which has been reduced by retirement and promotion. Routinely, it has been one of our strongest-funded research activities. Again, walk through Brehm Animal Science Building, and you’ll feel the excitement of having all these new faces in the department.

This excitement can also be felt among our Extension faculty. With retirement and departures, we are left with one senior faculty member, and all the others are relatively new. These new faculty have quickly embraced Extension programming in the areas of equine, beef cattle nutrition and reproduction, animal health, and dairy production. The positivity and sense of excitement can be heard in agents’ voices as they talk about meeting our new equine specialist or beef nutritionist. These new faculty have already begun reviewing and updating information that our county agents need to assist their producers. The department very much believes and appreciates the “county base” program of Extension, and the specialists enjoy not only training the trainers but also presenting to producers on an almost nightly basis. The new Beef Heifer Development Center, the Advanced Master Beef Program, and Master Dairy Producers are currently the highlights but will be followed soon by our new Tennessee Master Horse Owner Program.

All in all, Animal Science is moving forward with new faces, new excitement, and new energy. Again, we are the “science of animals” and look forward to helping our producers, students, and industry make waves into the future.

It’s Extension Month In Tennessee

By Shirley Hastings, Director of Strategic Planning and Associate Dean Emeritus, Family and Consumer Sciences

March is Extension Month in Tennessee! Established in 2015 by a proclamation from the Tennessee General Assembly, Extension Month celebrates the educational outreach, service, and economic impact achieved by Extension across the state. During the month of March, county Extension offices have planned events to increase the visibility of Extension by showcasing educational programs, services, and information that Extension provides through more than 4.3 million direct contacts with Tennesseans annually.

UT Extension is a valuable resource for helping citizens to solve problems, providing real life solutions in the places they live, work, and play.

Extension’s educational efforts are based on local needs, research, and a commitment to improve the quality of life. Extension’s hundreds of educational programs are delivered in all ninety-five counties in the state by subject matter specialists, county agents, and volunteers.

“For more than one hundred years, UT Extension has worked to improve the lives of Tennesseans,” said Tim Cross, dean of UT Extension. “Our efforts extend the university’s teaching and research mission to deliver research-based information and education to the state’s citizens through youth and adult programs in every county.”

Example programs available through county offices include the state’s award-winning 4-H Youth Development program, focusing on life skills development for youth. The summer 4-H camping program is a favorite part of the summer for nearly 5,000 youth across Tennessee, and 180,000 youth participate in various other 4-H programs. Family and Consumer Science programs focus on key issues that impact individuals and families, such as child development, obesity prevention, nutrition, health, and family economics. Programs in agriculture assist Tennesseans to achieve goals of profitable agriculture, abundant and safe food, a clean environment, and effective stewardship of natural resources.

Extension programs are an excellent investment of public resources and produce substantial returns to the state. Using research, questionnaires, observations, and sales records, an economic impact was estimated at more than $511 million from July 1, 2014, through June 30, 2015, for statewide educational programs. A recent assessment indicates that every dollar in public funds invested in Extension programs returns an estimated $8.25 to the people of Tennessee.

In 2014, UT Extension launched the Increasing Visibility Initiative Team to develop an effective statewide marketing plan to establish UT Extension as the primary knowledge source for Tennessee residents. As one component of this plan, the team developed and implemented Extension Month as a way to bring widespread recognition and visibility annually to the work and role of Extension in Tennessee. Extension Month is a time to recognize our agents and specialists for all they do to contribute to Extension’s mission to improve Tennesseans’ quality of life and provide real life solutions; to celebrate the impact that Extension has on individuals in their local communities; and to inform new clientele of Extension’s educational programs and services available to them. Some examples of events taking place in counties to commemorate Extension Month include open houses, 5K runs, cook offs, and special educational workshops or events. Many agents are staffing educational displays in unconventional locations to increase visibility among audiences who may be unaware of what Extension is and how it can benefit them. By reaching out to new clientele, the activities of Extension Month help Extension expand its role as the outreach unit of UTIA in rural and urban communities statewide.

Meditation Group & Yoga Classes Offered on Ag Campus

A meditation group has formed on the Knoxville agricultural campus, and yoga classes are also available to UTIA faculty, staff, and students. The two offer a pause and chance to

de-stress on a busy day. Each group emerged from a collaboration of the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Wellness and Health Organization (WHO) and Pendergrass Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine Library. WHO is part of the College’s overall wellness initiative.

The Meditation Group, which is free, is a supportive community interested in learning new meditation techniques and practicing together on a weekly basis. Each month, the group explores a new technique or practice, such as mindfulness, breath awareness, visualization, and mantras. Learn more at the group’s Facebook page and explore a Meditation and Mindfulness Guide for resources for take-home practice.

The yoga class, which has a $3 per class fee or $10 monthly rate, meets January through May and features Yang (strength-building) and Yin (slow-paced) forms of yoga. You can find more information here.

“Students, faculty, and staff all struggle with having too much to do and too little time,” says Caroline Zeglen, assistant librarian with Pendergrass Library. “In the never-ending race to get things done, we often forget to pause, be still, and breathe. The mindfulness and meditation and yoga groups help everyone on the agriculture campus to carve out a little time during the week to rest and recharge. My favorite thing about the groups are the communities—there’s something about coming together that creates a special energy.” 

UT Extension Celebrates a Farmers Market Success in Centerville

On March 1, the Farmers Market at River Park in Centerville, Hickman County, received the Community and Agricultural Development Award from the Tennessee Rural Development Committee.

The award crowns an incredible turnaround for a market that once struggled for its existence and celebrates its progress since 2007 in boosting farm income, improving the
environment, promoting economic development, conserving natural resources, and improving facilities and services. UT Extension Hickman County was critical to that turnaround.

Teamwork involving UT Extension Hickman County, the Hickman County Health Department, and several people and groups working with local vendors, along with continuing promotion of the market began to make good things happen for the market. Local vendors became more committed to making it work, the advertisements began to bring more people to the market, and the use of the Innovation Funds from the State Health Promotion Block Grant aided the market in its turnaround. These funds helped greatly in promoting it more through the use of local newspaper ads, educational activities, special market days, banners, signage, and the development of a branded logo.

UT Extension Hickman County helped the market by assisting with the educational activities that centered on soil testing for the home garden, nutrition, and proper canning techniques for home produce. Extension serves as the coordinator for the market, assisting with production questions and providing for vendor meetings prior to its opening each year. A “Grand Opening” event held the past two years has drawn more than 400 people in attendance each time. These efforts have resulted in an increase in the number of paid vendors from six in 2010 to twenty-six in 2015.

"We're excited about the impacts this market has had, both on income for area farmers and, through fresh, nutritious produce, in benefiting the health of many people in our community," says Troy Dugger, Hickman County Extension director.