The Farm Bureau-UT Extension Partnership Helps Tennesseans Launch Value-added Opportunities
COLUMBIA, Tenn. – A center that helps Tennessee farm families increase the sustainability of their operations is celebrating a quarter century of service.
The Center for Profitable Agriculture (cpa.tennessee.edu) helps Tennessee farmers identify, analyze, develop and sustain value-added products and enterprises. For many Tennessee family farms, adding new products or services that expand their income beyond the traditional wholesale of large quantities of a commodity makes a difference to the profitability and security of their operations. It’s one thing to sell tomatoes for packaging or retail; it’s adding additional value to your revenue stream if you sell tomatoes as salsa, for example.
University of Tennessee Extension, a unit of the UT Institute of Agriculture, launched the center in 1998. Since 2002, the center has operated as a partnership between UT Extension and the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation, combining the considerable resources of both organizations.
Much has changed since the center started. “Back then, there was not a lot of demand from consumers to buy local, and also there really was no established agritourism industry in the state,” says CPA director Rob Holland. “Today, the value of food and processed or value-added farm products sold from the farm direct to retail markets exceeds $46 million per year while the value of agritourism and recreational sales from the farm exceeds $14 million. We are proud of the center’s impacts in these advances.” Holland would know. He’s been with the CPA since the beginning, joining as an assistant financial specialist.
Specialists at the center assist Tennessee producers through one-on-one consulting and in workshops and conferences. The center also develops publications and educational materials. Among the hurdles the center helps farmers clear are accurately assessing the costs of launching a new product or service, to navigating regulatory issues, to identifying a potential market.
The center offers programming in general business essentials and marketing fundamentals; agritourism; farmers markets; specialty crops; value-added dairy; value-added food manufacturing; value-added meats; and value-added poultry, among others.
The center also is home to two other programs for farmers. The Tennessee AgrAbility Project (agrability.tennessee.edu), assists people with disabilities, veterans, and others enter and succeed at farming. The Tennessee SARE Program (cpa.tennessee.edu/TNSARE), which the center co-leads with Tennessee State University Extension, is a USDA competitive grants program that provides information to improve profitability, stewardship and quality of life.
“While the Center for Profitable Agriculture is celebrating 25 years of operation, it is the Tennessee farmers and farm families impacted by the center’s work and the people who have dedicated themselves to its efforts that make the center so successful,” says Ashley Stokes, dean of UT Extension.
“I thank the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation for its investment in the center and partnership with UT Extension—a partnership that has helped so many Tennesseans.”
“The development, significance and growth of value-added agriculture in our state is impressive,” says Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation President Eric Mayberry. For example, in 1998 there were fewer than 50 farmers markets in the state. By 2018, Tennessee was among the states with the fastest growing number of farmers markets and this coming season more than 160 are expected to be in operation.
Agritourism, too, has grown as people want more opportunities to get outside and keep in tune with the land and their heritage. From pick-your-own operations to wagon rides and corn mazes, people across the state love to support local farming operations.
“It is clear the center has made a positive impact for farms, farm families and communities throughout Tennessee,” Mayberry says. “Impressively, the center is just as important and relevant today as it was in 1998. I look forward to seeing what its next twenty-five years, and the years well beyond, hold for Tennessee.”
Through its land-grant mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. utia.tennessee.edu.