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September Equinox Starts It In Motion

I love this time of the year. September is slipping over the horizon and the month of October is the same as here. October has always been special for me and one reason could be because of the fact it was the month of my birth. Birthdays are pretty big events in our family and coming from a dairy family we “milk” them for everything they are worth. The opposite of birth is death, which also has somewhat of a celebration, but at least during the birth celebration the person being celebrated gets to enjoy the food. And I guess it is the food that I do really enjoy.  

The day I was born, my daddy had to sell one of our meat hogs to pay the doctor. It cost twenty-five dollars to bring me into this world. And you know, every time I would get into trouble as a kid and the price of hogs would be up, I could swear I would hear my daddy say under his breath, “I wish I had that hog back.” But he loved me, and one year he even bought me a football helmet for my birthday to prove it. I never played football, but it was great for protecting your head when jumping a bicycle across ditches and gullies. On second thought, I guess the hog was a better buy.      

We also have the changing of the leaves, the cooler temperatures, as well as hayrides and festivals going on now, but it is also chili, wiener roasts and molasses time just to name a few fall favorites. It all started for me when the September Equinox occurred and the sun rose directly in the east and set directly in the west on that day; I started thinking about autumn farm parties. You know the kind, those with lots of pumpkins and straw sitting around, along with happy scarecrows inviting you in for some cider and molasses cookies to warm the cockles of your heart, whatever that may be. I love fall days down on the farm and the festivals that hit this time of the year are what a harvest moon and a corn shock were created for. The only problem associated with this time of the year is that there are not enough Saturdays to fit in all the festivals I want to go to.  

There is one I try to attend each year and I suggest you do the same. It is located at the Oscar Farris Agricultural Museum in Nashville. The annual Music and Molasses Festival takes place this year October 18 through 19 at the museum located on the grounds of Ellington Agriculture Center in southwest Nashville.  It is a special event that draws a large number of people from the Nashville area, as well as across the state.  During the two days of the Music and Molasses Festival, visitors have the opportunity to see and taste molasses being cooked over a wood fire by the Guenther family from Muddy Pond, up in Overton County.  A horse is used to press the juice from the cane and then the molasses is slowly cooked and skimmed off to produce the final product.  

The grounds contain several log cabins and even a log schoolhouse complete with the hickory stick over in the corner to keep kids in order. There is even an old-fashioned lye soap making demonstration outside a log cabin along with folks dressed in period costumes to make the day even more authentic. That lye soap could come in handy this year to help keep the flu virus at bay.  

There is spinning demonstrations, wood carving, herb garden information, rides in buggies, broom making, and lots of food and plenty of old time music. It is two days truly made for a celebration of fall and a chance to get your cockles warmed as I have said before.  

If you have never been to the Oscar Farris Agricultural Museum, then you have missed out on a lot of agricultural history all gathered under one roof. It contains a collection of thousands of agricultural hand tools, implements, artifacts, clothing, buggies, wagons, and just about anything used in agriculture production from days gone by. The collection is housed in a huge white barn, with two levels of exhibits. The Tennessee Agriculture Hall of Fame is also located in the museum. It allows you the opportunity to see how some individuals have made major contributions to the Tennessee agriculture success story. There is not an admission fee to see the museum, and it would surely be worth your time to visit one of the best agriculture information sites in the state. The museum presents, for the novice, what farming was like in Tennessee from the time the area was settled, up until the era of the introduction of the tractor.  

It is molasses time in Tennessee! So cook up some biscuits with creamy butter and let’s get to soppin’. Fall is in the air!    


Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at

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Century Farms On Facebook

A few weeks back, I received an invitation to be the speaker for the Wilson County Fair Century Farm Luncheon. It was one of those hot days in August, but it was a grand day for a visit to one of Tennessee’s top county fairs and a chance to celebrate the Century Farm Program in our state. Along with the Century Farm families as guests, there were also numerous special guests on hand who had contacts with the government, and their attendance brought back the memory of an old story about my Uncle Sid’s visit with a government man out on his farm. That visit wasn’t as important as recognizing the farms in Wilson County that have been around for more than 100 years, but it sure did cause the government man, I understand, to consider changing his line of work. Wilson County has one of the largest numbers of Century Farms in the state. Each year they celebrate that accomplishment at their outstanding county fair with a special luncheon. I look forward to this event each year because it does recognize the farming family unit, which makes up 98 percent of today’s farms located across this country.      

The story is told that on the farm where my Uncle Sid and Aunt Sadie live, a young man drove up in front of their house in one of those white, federally owned cars with official license plates on the back. Uncle Sid was sitting on the front porch enjoying an afternoon break from working in the garden out back of the house. The old man had seen the car earlier, down at the country store, and had heard that the government man driving it was asking a lot of questions in the area.                                      

Of course, you can just imagine what rumors developed from the local store-sitters who saw the car, and Uncle Sid was a bit concerned why the government had sent someone to his house. He had been taught by his own grandparents to be somewhat cautious of the government. They had gone through the Civil War and Uncle Sid figured they knew what they were talking about when it came to trust in Washington and all.  

A young fellow in a white, short sleeve shirt and necktie got out of the car and walked up the old man’s sidewalk with a pad and pencil in his hand. Uncle Sid does not trust anyone, other than a preacher, and not too many of them, who wears a tie in August and comes out on the farm with a pencil and paper in hand.  

As the government man stepped up on the steps, Uncle Sid asked him, "What are you selling, young feller?”  

"I'm not selling anything, sir," the young man replied very politely. "I'm the Census Taker."  

No one had ever approached Uncle Sid like that before. In fact, he didn’t even know what a census was, let alone someone who actually came to your house and took it from you. Uncle Sid swallowed a bit and asked, "A what?"  

The young man from the government knew he had walked upon a problem for such a hot day and tried his best to explain his reason for being there. Smiling, somewhat, he said, "A Census Taker. We are trying to find out how many people are in the United States."  

The young man’s statement caused Uncle Sid to lean back in his old, front porch rocker and take his well-worn cap off his balding head. He took out his red bandana, wiped his brow and began to scratch his head a bit and said, "Well, young feller, I guess you're just wasting your time with me, because I have no idea, but if you find out I sure would like to know."  

To be selected as a Century Farm, a farm owner has to answer several questions and fill out an application. I’m just glad those who have received the honor were much more interested in sharing their information than, I am sure, Uncle Sid would have been.  

To be considered for Century Farm eligibility, a farm must be owned by the same family for at least 100 years, must produce $1,000 in revenue annually, and must have at least 10 acres. There are currently 1,487 Century Farms all across the state, with many of them having been around for more than 200 years.  

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture began the program in 1976. Since 1984, the Center for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee State University has handled the important work of documenting Tennessee’s agricultural heritage and history through the Tennessee Century Farms Program under the direction of Tennessee State Historian Carroll Van West. For the next two years, the program is going under some changes with a major upgrade of its website. Currently, there is a cost-effective replacement for listing farms on a newly created “Tennessee Century Farms Program” page on Facebook. Just ‘like” the page and join in for some great information on Century Farms in our state.  

If you have a possible Century Farm candidate, or want more information, you may call 615-898-2947. We promise a government man will not come out and ask you any questions.      


Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at

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Is The Wallet A Lost Art

Some days, the news media finds it really difficult to come up with news. Of course, that is not always a bad thing, but the major problem with their inability to come up with actual factual news is that they have to make up something. For example, just today it was reported that the wallet would one day become a thing of the past. I’ve never spent many hours pondering on that subject, but just like those folks out in California attempting to do away with the plastic bag, I really don’t see that happening real soon.  

Sure, there are now those who like those tight jeans and a wallet doesn’t work for them, but they are also the ones who are always asking us “husky” guys to borrow a dollar for their special diet waters because we have wallets in our “husky” jeans that you could choke a mule with. My wallet still contains the photo of some good-looking lady who came with the plastic picture holders when I bought my genuine artificial cowhide billfold. She’s not that good-looking anymore due to the imprint of my hunting license stamps rubbing on her face, but she does take up a space. The fact is, I still believe that news story was based on town folks and not those of us who keep a wallet as our mobile office filing cabinet out on the farm.  

My father would clean his billfold out at least once every five years and then he would only change the location of us kids’ school pictures. I still have his billfold and it is the closest thing to opening King Tut’s tomb that you can find. It has feed mill tickets, a rabies shot tag for one of his favorite hounds, special drivers license for operating a school bus, insurance company calendar, Mama’s picture in the front, extra key to the tractor, numerous hunting schedules and four one dollar bills along with a lot of hay chaff. Every item in it was a necessity and he never left the house without it.  

My grandfather was the very same way. He carried his in the button down pocket in the bid of his overalls. I can still see him unbutton that pocket to pull out that dark brown wallet to pay you after helping him with a farm chore. That instrument of financial recording, held close to the heart of the farmer in those days, could report the success of the year’s crop to the tax preparers and could also let you know how well the family budget was doing at the present time.  

Men’s wallets have even been blamed for bad back problems. It is reported by a number of news groups that carrying a wallet in your back pocket can cause sciatica and can harm the lower back. It is suggested that you never sit on your wallet when you drive.  A half-inch wallet is all it takes, they say, to cause some major back pain, and now a days, since we have changed out folding money to credit cards, the thickness of the wallet has put a strain on the back as well as the bank account. You can fix that however by getting rid of the jeans and go to overalls like my granddaddy and keep your wallet in the button down bid part. Overalls are more practical anyway. More pockets for stuff and a whole lot less confining.  

With the development of credit cards and smartphones, I guess many of the things we at one time kept in a wallet are now being replaced. I’ve never had my wallet hacked, but it has had to dry out every now and then due to a hard day of work or the occasional rainstorm catching you in the back forty. I do admit my wallet has things in it that only I understand and get enjoyment from. The inside of a man’s wallet IS sort of like King Tut’s tomb. We do store what we consider our treasures in there and if you are lucky, on some days, there may even be some value there.        


Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at

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Now Is Not Time To Take A Nap

Once again, we approach that date on the calendar that many of us will always remember as one when we experienced feelings of fear, tragedy, total confusion, outrage and patriotism all in one day. September 11, 2001 for our generation will be like another generation’s Pearl Harbor, and as we approach the thirteenth anniversary of that date, I just hope it is not an omen of things to come.    

I’ll never forget that sunny morning while driving to work on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, when my cell phone rang and I noticed on the digital screen that the call was coming from my home. Just having left only a few minutes earlier, my first thoughts were of what I had forgotten or what my wife was suggesting for me to purchase on my way home. Instead it was a call that changed us all for a very long time.  

Of course, she was calling to tell me of the fire at the World Trade Center, and at that time only one tower had been damaged and the news reports were unclear as to what had happened. I hurried to my office and turned on the TV located in our communications area in time to see the second tower struck by another plane. By now, my office had filled with other employees staring in shock as news reports came in from Washington, D.C., New York City, Pennsylvania and other cities involved in the attacks against our country.  

What had started as a beautiful, clear, usual day in the Volunteer State thirteen years ago had suddenly turned into one of the most shocking days of our lives. Terrorists had used commercial airliners as missiles to attack the United States of America. Even though not officially declared, we were at war.  

One of the ladies in our office spoke with her elderly mother who was at home alone. Being concerned for her mother at a time like this, she asked her how she was doing after hearing all of the news reports. Her mother told her in a very shaky voice, “It reminds me of the day Pearl Harbor was attacked. The only thing was we did not have to watch the attack on television and see the people die.”  

Those words sent a chill over me and probably will remain with me as a memory of that day forever. Just like the assassination of President Kennedy, November 22, 1963, I will always remember where I was and what I was doing. Like the elderly mother of my co-worker, the only difference of that event and the horror we saw September 11, is we did not watch it firsthand as it happened.  

As I sat there watching the rescue efforts and the news reporters hurrying to the scene, I noticed a small wooden calendar I have on top of my office TV.  The calendar is made of a series of wooden blocks that you change to form the date. I had changed the calendar for the day, which read 9-11. How appropriate that the date that this country will remember forever was the call numbers for help - 911.  

I have had to use those numbers the last thirteen years myself. I’ve called for help when my father suffered a heart attack and died in my arms, as well as other times, and you never forget something like that. The fear that you have as you punch in those numbers is a fear that cannot be explained by words. As I sat helpless, watching the horror in New York that September day 13 years ago, that same fear appeared. A fear not only for those killed or injured, but also a fear for our country.  

When the Japanese planes returned to their carriers after bombing Pearl Harbor, it is said that the commander of the Japanese fleet made the remark that he was afraid that what they had done would mean they would lose everything they had due to awakening a sleeping giant. I believe those terrorists who struck 9-11 awakened that giant once again thirteen years ago, but so often, giants have the habit of dozing off every now and then. I just hope it is not in the process of rubbing its eyes for a nap these days, but instead is wide awake and will always remember the day of 9-11.  

The 911 numbers were called on that September day and we must never forget the fear we felt. That fear caused us to act and we are not through handling that 911 call. I hope you are still remembering 9-11 this month and continue to stand proud for our country in the days ahead. Never forget!  

May God bless America and always keep her awake.       


Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at

Non-GMO Pledge Made Me Pick Another Spread

The other day as I pushed my grocery cart down the aisle of my favorite food store, I was stopped in my tracks as I approached the dairy case that held the brand of the whipped spread that goes on my toast and in my oatmeal each morning. There on the top of the blue and yellow container that holds my low-sodium, whipped buttery spread, which I have eaten for over six years due to my late wife’s orders, was printed a “non-GMO” pledge. The contents are already 64 percent vegetable oil and uses the words “buttery” on its label which is an insult to a dairy cow, but now they are going after my grain farmers just to peddle a few pots of something to make toast taste good without causing some of us to feel guilty about eating the jam we gob on it in the first place.  

There has yet to be real good science about GMOs causing health problems and much of what you hear comes from the internet, along with a lot of advertising, to say some products don’t have it. Just to let you know, no commercially grown crops in this country were created by nature alone. We humans, over time, have altered all our crops in some way or the other for taste or yield, beginning all the way back there with Noah. We have always saved the best seeds or attempted to produce a higher producing plant to feed more people and modification has been the source from hybrids on up.  

That afternoon as I changed my reach for the first time in six years from the yellow and blue carton over to some real dairy products to put on my toast, like I did growing up, I wondered what those folks at the blue tub plant would think about Wilson County farming hero and plant modifier William Haskell Neal who would have marveled at today’s GMO products.  

To those of you who are not familiar with Tennessee history and especially agricultural history, Neal was the originator of the famous seed corn Neal’s Paymaster that revolutionized seed corn production for years. I’ve written about him before because he is a Tennessee hero just like Houston and Crockett. He was a farmer and experimented with a revolutionary idea of breeding seed corn by selecting seed only from two-eared stalks. The results of his experimentation resulted in increasing the corn yield of farmers amounting to millions of dollars.  In 1919, it was estimated that Neal’s Paymaster corn added $2 million a year to the state of Tennessee’s economy. Neal’s Paymaster corn was an added income producer that was greatly needed in turn-of-the-century agriculture.  

Almost a hundred years ago Neal did this, and who would have thought way back then that people would be receptive to an idea where someone could come up with a way to produce more food by changing the way we selected our seed. I guess with a hunger in the country and a deeper understanding of agriculture, the people in those days could see the need more so than we do today.  

Neal got his idea for growing his new seed corn from reading an article in a farm paper about seed selection.  Going over his fields, he found here and there a two-eared stalk, from which he carefully saved the bottom ear, as the article suggested. It took him ten years of discarding inferior types and keeping only ears with the deepest grains, slimmest cobs, and best-filled tips.  

After five years of testing with the University of Tennessee, they sent back word that he had struck upon something unusual. He was told his variety would prove of great value to Tennessee farmers. “Well, that is what the farmers want,” Neal said as reported in the 1920 edition of the Southern Agriculturist magazine.  “We don’t care how crooked the row, or how twisted the cob, so long as there is plenty of grain.  It is quantity and quality we are after, not looks.”  

The seed corn needed a name and it was Mrs. Neal who did just that.  As reported in the Southern Agriculturist, Wilson County was famous for its fine horses and jack stock. The county had a famous colt called Paymaster, which had made one Jones family a lot of money. Mrs. Neal told her husband as they sat around the kitchen table, thinking of a name, “If this corn will pay its master as well as the Jones’ colt did, I don’t see where we could find a better name.”  So was the creation of the name Neal’s Paymaster seed corn.  

Back in 1919, our farmers were looking for quantity and quality in production. I know since all those many years ago, our health standards, our manufacturing, and yes, our agriculture has changed for the better in uncountable ways.  I do know that I listen to real science before I make decisions about what I put on my toast and I believe Mr. Neal would have suggested that a “non-GMO pledge” on the blue package is somewhat of a twisted cob in the scheme of things.  


Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at

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Wasps Are Building Like Crazy

The last holiday of the summer season is upon us and everyone will have to wait until Thanksgiving to get another one of those long official weekends. Labor Day is one of those holidays I have never really gotten caught up in over the years, other than it being time for a lot of dove hunting in my part of the country. As a child, it usually meant that it was time for school to start back up, but now a days school starts back about the time the ink dries on the kid’s report cards from getting out for summer vacation. I guess that is one reason Labor Day is still sort of on the downhill side of lonesome for me. As a child, it implanted a feeling of dread within my psychological thought patterns knowing that summer was over and school was starting up. That dread is still there when I hear the sound of crickets doing their fall chirping, announcing school start up is near and backwoods fun is over.   
Labor Day has really been around for a while. It was first celebrated on September 5, 1882, with a parade put on by the Central Labor Union in New York City to honor the achievements of the working class, so says the Old Farmers Almanac. The Almanac goes on to say, “The holiday’s popularity spread, and on June 28, 1894, President Grover Cleveland made it a federal holiday, to be observed on the first Monday in September. It is thought that the U.S. holiday was inspired by Canada’s labor movement, which was started by Canadian trade unionists in 1872, and resulted in the first official Labor Day in 1894. Although the day’s focus on organized labor has diminished over the years, the legal holiday still marks the end of summer and the traditional time for children to return to school.”  
Most folks today use the holiday to go to the lake, take an extended trip to the mountains, camp, fish or just fire up the grill one more time for the gang before colder temperatures settle in later in the month. And, I promise those temperatures will come a calling before you know it. Just the other day, I saw a solid black wooly worm cross the road and you all know what that means. If he is any sign of what winter may be like, this winter’s cold and snow may be the reverse of what this summer’s heat and rain have been for us the past few months. It wouldn’t hurt to cut a little more firewood and to fluff up that insulation in the attic if you have any confidence in Tennessee wooly worms. Of course, I’ve only seen that one and I’ll have to be watching for more as the season goes on, but the first one out does bare paying special attention to.  
When it comes to weather predictions, I only trust Uncle Sid to give me the real facts. Those guys in Nashville do a great job, but Uncle Sid has experienced more weather changes in his lifetime and his bones than those fellows will ever see on their radar screens.  
Thus, the best predictor of weather in these parts is my Uncle Sid. He has seen his fair share of cold and hot spells, plus being trained by his mother Floramai. She could predict weather by every part of her body, as well as every varmint located in the woods near their farm. All of her talents she passed down to her son and Uncle Sid even has added some of his own.  
I asked him the other day what he thought this winter’s weather would look like and he said, “Tomato skins were extra thick this year at our place which always means a real cold winter.  I think it’s going to be a cold one for sure because the squirrels are growing thick coats of fur and Aunt Sadie has run out of canning jars from stocking up our pantry. And, as of today, Aunt Sadie bought herself a brand new pair of flannel pajamas and that is a sure sign of a cold winter at our house. Yeah, it’s going to be a real snowy and cold one for sure.”  
There you have it! The first winter’s forecast from Uncle Sid and myself. The squirrels have thick coats, Aunt Sadie has done got her some new flannel PJs and the wasps are building like crazy.  Sounds like you had better enjoy this Labor Day holiday because Thanksgiving should be a perfect time to kill hogs this year. Of course, that last sentence will only be understood by you old timers and I suggest you youngsters ask some of them to explain it to you. You do understand that Uncle Sid is also allowed the same error ratio as our TV weather folks of missing it by 95 percent. Have a good fall!    
Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at      
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Where The Farm Waters Flow

On one of those surprising cool summer evenings we had recently, I took my “red-neck” golf cart out for a late evening drive around the back forty just to enjoy the night. Mine is one that was bought on the conservative side but fits my lifestyle perfectly. It doesn’t hold golf clubs, but instead has gun racks, floodlights and army green coloring with a slightly altered gas engine allowing it to do over 20 mph. It’s not what you will see on the back nine, just on my back forty, hauling me around.  
On this particular evening, I was checking the backfields after we had just enjoyed a really good rain and I was following some dry streambeds, which now were overflowing to a nearby sinkhole. Having grown up on a Middle Tennessee dairy farm, I was taught early to respect the groundwater that supplied our rural area of this planet and to understand that it was up to us to keep those waters safe for future generations to come. Our farm contained numerous sinkholes then and still does today. My father informed me regularly, in no uncertain terms, that they led directly to our underground water sources. He stressed we must all be careful to make sure those sinkholes were not places where we discarded anything that could contaminate the groundwater that flowed under them.  In years past, that was not always the case on many other properties, due to the lack of understanding of how our groundwater sources work. Those holes in the ground in earlier years were the perfect source for disposing of anything a person may have wanted to get out of sight, regardless of the nature of its content or makeup, if you know what I mean. But today, with efforts carried out by our land grant universities, governmental departments of agriculture and environment, along with a general education of our population of teaching everyone the importance of protecting our groundwater, we have seen improvement in water quality.  
With most of us getting our water supply today from local utilities and right out of the tap whenever we need it, we often forget that 95 percent of all available freshwater in this country comes from aquifers underground. With most of our surface water bodies connected to the groundwater in some way, it is very important that we all understand we have a stake in maintaining the quality of groundwater supplies. All across Tennessee there are still privately owned wells that provide drinking water for families, along with fresh water for livestock and irrigation to water crops. Safe water will always remain important and protecting the natural resource of groundwater should be a top priority of all of us.  
I have read that it is suggested that Americans are the largest water users, per capita, in the world. With all of the people I see with plastic bottles of water walking the streets everyday just around my part of the country, I would say that is pretty much on target, give or take a drop. As our population continues to increase, so will our water usage, making it even more important for us to protect our water supply.  
There are two fundamental categories of groundwater protection listed by the National Groundwater Association: keeping it safe from contamination and using it wisely. That’s pretty simple advice, but very important.  By just maintaining septic systems, preventing improper storage and disposal of hazardous substances such as insecticides, pesticides and other chemicals, we can protect groundwater quality. For years, many have blamed agriculture for groundwater problems, but with the increase of multiple houses in the same location, plus the overuse of chemicals on lawns and landscaping, runoff is also increasing from the suburbs. There is even an increase in the concern for the occurrence of pharmaceuticals and personal care products showing up in our water supply. Fingers can no longer be pointed in just one direction. Instead, the effort includes all of us working together to protect groundwater and helping to reduce risks to our water supply.  
For more information on how you can protect our groundwater, along with keeping private wells safe, and just why you have a stake in doing so, go to The things my father taught me all those many years ago are still so important when it comes to protecting our groundwater. Farmers have always known what was at stake when it comes to looking after the water on top and under the ground of their farms. Let’s all do a better job of protecting it each and every day.    
Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at      
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Mark Twain Is Still Quotable

Mark Twain is one individual whose writings and quotes I have always enjoyed, beginning at an early age. After all these years that his pen has been silent, I still run across quotes that are so relevant to today’s events and happenings. He once wrote, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble.  It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” That little statement alone could very easily apply to the current issues facing this country and how we come out of the things that seem to be making the circuit these days. Twain also said, “Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.” That quote may be the one many of our folks who run the 24-hour newscasts on TV have taken to heart.  
But there are still those out there who are interested in doing things the right way. A group of folks I have worked with over the years, who enjoy being in the background at times and seem to remain rather humble when it comes to spreading the news about what they do and have accomplished, are starting to learn that to become a part of the agritourism industry, one has to do some marketing or a little bragging at times. A farmer told me one time that he didn’t like to brag about his products and thought it just wasn’t right to do so. He may have remembered what Twain said about bragging. He said, “Bragging and braying were one in the same. The only difference is one came from an animal with longer ears.”   
Mark Twain may have had something there, but if you are going to be successful in today’s agri-marketing business model you will have to become involved in promoting your product, and farmers across this state are doing so everyday. In fact, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, along with the Center for Profitable Agriculture supported by UT Extension and the Tennessee Farm Bureau, is even teaching them how to do so. They are regularly holding workshops to teach farmers how to brand their products and talk to groups about what they do. They are even taught how to talk about their products at times, and as my granddaddy once said, “If it’s the truth, it ain’t bragging.”  
Agritourism continues to grow around Tennessee with farmers using their farms as a way to make additional income other than the traditional way from farm production.  Many have pick-your-own produce operations, corn mazes, petting farms, trail rides, Christmas tree farms, fall festivals and other activities that invite consumers to visit the farms in their area. There is even a website you can go to that lists numerous farms across the state that are involved in agritourism. The site is and has a lot of information about Tennessee agritourism.  
In a survey that profiled Tennessee agritourism a couple years back, it reported that almost 63 percent of those operators engaged in this type of program had attended an agritourism educational program. The survey news release stated, “On average, operators estimated that these programs influenced their sales in 2012 with an increase of 19.9 percent. The total estimated impact for the industry of educational programs in the last three years is nearly $7.6 million.”  
The news release also went on to say that those involved did not always find success to come easy either. They said that several survey respondents reported they had operated an agritourism operation but were no longer in business. The most commonly given reason for not staying in business was the inability to attract enough customers or make enough sales. While marketing and attracting customers are big challenges, other obstacles include working with family, securing capital, meeting regulatory requirements, zoning issues and more.  
But, if you have made a farmers market recently, you just may be itching to give agritourism a try. I would suggest before you grow long ears and start bragging about your crop, you contact someone who can give you a little advice before your ears get you in trouble. One good place to start is by going to the Center for Profitable Agriculture website at: They can put you on the right trail and help prevent you from dealing with things that can cause ear problems.  
There is a lot in Tennessee agriculture to brag about and the ear length really doesn’t matter.                                                     
Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at      

And You Still Can’t Make a Mater Saminch

Here we are once again in the glory days of homegrown maters and I’m still finding folks who can’t make a mater saminch. I put out one of those videos a couple of years back, wrote articles, was featured in a few fancy magazines scraping a Miracle Whip jar with a knife and I still have people ask me the proper way to make the correct mater saminch. Let me tell you however, it does my heart good to have those questions since I have become Tennessee’s official apostle of rural living as declared by Joint House resolution number 225 in 2013 and am truly known as an expert mater saminch constructor.  
My claim to fame all began with me looking through one of my late wife’s “country Wanda be” magazines. You know the ones, those that have pictures of old furniture out in the yard with ankle high grass under a tree like a Little House on the Prairie movie set. In fact, I wrote a column a few years ago about seeing that magazine and from that article I became the mater saminch creator of all time.  
The thing that caught my attention in that magazine was a recipe for a tomato sandwich. Mater saminches have been my specialty and I have always been real interested in what trendy folks do to make one. Right off the bat, I knew whoever wrote that recipe never grew a homegrown tomato in Tennessee.  
In the first line as I remember, they suggested using slices of challah or brioche bread with butter and a sprinkle of sea salt. First of all, I really don’t know what those breads are, and second, sea salt was never a staple in my mama’s kitchen cabinet from whom I learned to make mater saminches at an early age. We had that salt in a round blue box with a little girl under an umbrella. And everyone knows it is Miracle Whip on lite bread, not butter, that makes a real mater saminch. I know some of you will tell me it’s these other salad dressings, but Miracle Whip is the tang for my buds.  
So, I guess it is up to me, once again, to repeat the true art of making a Tennessee mater saminch so the influence of the trendy people will not corrupt the mater saminch making process. Butter is really good on a lot of things. It’s great on hot buttermilk biscuits with molasses, fresh roasting ears of corn and other items too numerous to mention here. But butter on a mater saminch is just wrong!         
To those who are not schooled on the correct terminology of what to call those beautiful red juicy fruits, there is a difference between a “tomato” and a “mater” which I will repeat again. A “tomato” by some standards is a fruit grown hundreds of miles away. A “mater” is a bright red, juicy fruit that has had our love and care for several months and is most certainly what you would call a real "homebody."  Homegrown “maters” are what summer is all about.  My summer wouldn’t be complete without a fresh “mater” sandwich every day or so. There are many ways to make one, but there is only one true country way to serve up your garden delights. A few years back, I gave out my "mater" sandwich recipe to help the "mater" novice create the perfect sandwich. Just in case there is another generation of those who have failed to perfect their own "mater" sandwich, here it is again.  
A country “mater” sandwich has to be made in an orderly routine using mayonnaise, white bread (or lite bread as it is called in the country), and a fresh ripe “mater” from the garden.  
You place two slices of fresh lite bread on a plate. Next, take a kitchen knife and spread a good amount of mayonnaise on both slices of bread. Make sure the knife hits the sides of the mayonnaise jar so a click can be heard sounding from the jar. This doesn’t help the taste of the sandwich, but it reminds you to buy more mayonnaise the next time you are at the store.  
Next, slice your homegrown “mater” into several thick slices, avoiding the temptation to swipe a slice for now. You should not be able to read a newspaper through any of the slices. This helps hold in the juice, and besides, if you wanted thin slices you could have gotten a “tomato” at a restaurant in town.  
Add pepper and salt as desired. Place the slices on the lite bread and gently put the pieces of bread together.  Ladies may want to cut the sandwich in a triangle, but real “Tennessee mater eaters” like their sandwiches whole to avoid the losing of any juice. Bite into your sandwich and enjoy what summer is all about.      
Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at  
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Watch Your Dog During Dog Days

As summertime begins to go into its hottest period of discomfort for southern man and beast alike, I’m reminded of the days when air conditioning was only found at J.C. Penney’s in town and would give you an ice cream headache due to not being use to it. It also reminds me of one hot July night back in the early ‘60s when Cousin Tom received a phone call at four thirty in the morning from a neighbor down the road. The old white frame farmhouse that he and Mollie had shared for a lifetime didn’t have all the modern day conveniences that we have, and it was always during the “dog days of summer” that they would have a few nights that were not very pleasant. That night was one of those and Tom had spent the night turning his pillow on a regular basis to locate the cool side to rest his head on.  
There was no air conditioning, no central units and the only way they had to move the hot and humid air around the house was with a GE oscillating fan that had been in the family since their now-grown children were babies. With all the windows pushed to the top of their sashes, you could hear the frogs outside croaking in a melody that seemed to make the air even more stagnant. Tom had even moved down to the foot of the bed to get some air from the open window. The sheets of the bed had felt like they had “come in case” just like tobacco hanging in the barn does before you strip it to sell.  
However, around three o’clock, the early morning air had cooled enough for the old man to finally get to sleep. But with the ringing of the huge black dial phone in the hall, his sleep had been broken and he headed to the phone stand table to answer what he assumed would be bad news, which is usually the case that time of the morning.  
With a trembling voice he said, “Hello?”  
Immediately on the other end of the line, Tom’s neighbor Burney Leary spoke with a very loud voice saying, “Your dog has barked all night and I want you to make him stop!”  
Now fully awake, Tom remained totally calm and answered Burney in a low voice, “I’m sorry Burney, thank you for calling and bringing that to my attention. Good-bye.”
After the call and explaining what all the commotion was about to Mollie, Tom went back to bed and slept a fairly restful sleep. But at four thirty he got back up and called Burney, and when Burney answered in somewhat of a frightened voice, Tom said, “You know Burney, I don’t have a dog. Goodnight.”   
Much like Tom and Burney’s long hot night confrontation during the summer’s “dog days,” those hottest and sultry days of summer get a lot of credit for strange things happening. They usually fall in the northern hemisphere between early July and early September, but the actual date is often open for debate.  “The Old Farmer’s Almanac” sets the date for Dog Days as the 40 days beginning July 3 and ending August 11.  It says it coincides with the ancient helical (at sunrise) rising of the Dog Star Sirius.  The ancients believed that the star was the cause for hot and sultry weather. They also believed it was an evil time when dogs grew mad, the seas boiled and man turned feverish.  
I’m not to sure when the Dog Star rises around here, but I do know that most folks call the last of July to about the middle of August the Dog Days in Tennessee. It is usually about the hottest time of the year for us. Most dogs during this time become lazy to avoid overheating and man seems to do the same thing. If you work outside, you can become “dog tired” during the Dog Days from the heat. You also learn really fast during this time of the year that you can drive a car with two fingers due to a hot steering wheel and don’t put sunglasses on too fast after first getting in a hot car if they have been setting on the dash.  
There are some good things to do during this hot time of the year. Check out a local Tennessee farm for some great farm raised fresh produce. During the Dog Days there’s nothing like a good fresh Tennessee tomato sandwich or honey straight from a farmer’s bee stand. Your local farmers markets are really going strong right about now, so be sure to make a visit to one.  
Avoid the Dog Star and stay cool. Dog Days will be over before long and fall is just around the corner, and so is the time for some good Tennessee cider and sorghum. I’ve noticed the sorghum fields are growing good right now and it looks like this year could be a good one for both man and beast.           
Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at      
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