Skip to Main Content

UT Institute of Agriculture University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture The University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Photos of the Institute of Agriculture

Frequently Used Tools:

News Release

For Immediate Release — May 29, 2009


It's Official: Tennessee Opens New Organic Crops Unit

Photo of Opening of the Organic Crops Unit

Officials from the UT Institute of Agriculture and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture show off the sign for the new Organic Crops Unit of the UT East Tennessee Research and Education Center in Knoxville. From left to right, Tim Cross, dean of UT Extension; Bill Brown, dean of UT AgResearch; Joe Gaines, Asst. Comm. of TDA; and Joseph DiPietro, UT vice president for agriculture.

Download photo

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – May 15 marked a momentous day for the University of Tennessee AgResearch program. AgResearch’s East Tennessee Research and Education Center officially changed the name of its Small Grains Unit to the Organic Crops Unit, and the new unit hosted its first organic crops field tour.

More than 150 farmers and backyard gardeners turned out to tour the new 90-acre facility and to hear UT experts and regional organic agriculture representatives discuss the business and pleasure of organic farming. Tennessee Department of Agriculture Assistant Commissioner Joe Gaines was on hand to help UT Institute of Agriculture administrators unveil a new sign for the organic unit’s official dedication.

Organic production has the potential to increase a farmer’s profits by reducing the use of off-farm inputs and providing consumers with locally-grown, high-quality organic products—products that are in high demand and which command premium prices in a rapidly growing market. UT AgResearch, in cooperation with UT Extension and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, launched the organic agriculture initiative to involve more Tennessee farmers in organic production for the purpose of increasing farm income, which may help some to keep the family farm in the family. Some 14 acres of the facility are currently in transition toward USDA organic certification. It takes three years to achieve USDA certification.

Visitors to the commercial grower presentations discussed how to become a USDA Certified Organic grower as well as topics like conservation tillage techniques; high-tunnel production; variety trials; and evaluating the use of cover crops for optimizing fertility, enhancing beneficial insect populations, reducing soil-borne pathogens, and managing weeds.

A tour designed for home gardeners covered heritage seed saving and heirloom tomato production as well as how to use growing degree days for timing when to plant a home garden. 

Both tours addressed the importance of encouraging bees in the landscape.

For additional information about organic farming in Tennessee, visit the Web site:

UT AgResearch is a division of the UT Institute of Agriculture. In addition to its agricultural research programs, the UT Institute of Agriculture also provides instruction, research and public service through the UT College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, the UT College of Veterinary Medicine and UT Extension offices in every county in the state.



Bobby Simpson, Associate Director, East Tennessee Research and Education Center, 865-974-7201,

Annette Wszelaki, UT Extension Commercial Vegetable Specialist, 865-974-8332,

Patricia McDaniels, UTIA Marketing and Communications Services, 615-835-4570,