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UT’s Organic Crops Field Tour


by Patricia Daniels

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture hosted an Organic Crops Field Tour on Thursday, October 23, 2014.  Designed for commercial and small-scale producers interested in organic production, the event focused on topics such as soil conservation, high tunnel production and organic pasture, free-range and small livestock production.

The event was held on the grounds of the East Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center’s Organic Crops Unit. The 90-acre facility is dedicated to organic crop research, and the field day highlighted current research projects, organic crop production techniques, and recommendations.

Topics covered were: cover crops, soil conservation, site preparation and equipment needed, varieties of cowpeas, spotted wing drosophila, stink bugs/ peppers, water catchment, organic cut flowers, bees, and organic pasture, free range small livestock.

The Keynote speaker was Alfred Farris. Alfred and his wife Carney started Windy Acres Farm in 1986, moving to the farming area of northeastern Robertson County near Orlinda, Tennessee. They believe there are “two basic challenges for all of us who care deeply about restoring this precious soil and water which are gifts from the Creator: How do we keep healthy soil on the farms? How do we keep healthy farms on the soil?” They “began to understand some of the huge challenges confronting those who wish to reverse the harmful effects of modern farming, such as the loss of half the top soil on farms east of the Rocky Mountains in 100 years of industrial farming and the creation of a huge dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, as excess nitrogen and pesticides flow from farms down the Mississippi River.” They “wanted to be a small part of the solution … by adopting organic and sustainable methods characterized by:
  • Crop rotations
  • Cover cropping to give green manure back to the soil
  • Elimination of synthetic pesticides and herbicides
  • Use of non-genetically modified organism (non-GMO) seeds and open pollinated seeds as much as possible
  • Enhancement of soil aerobic biological life
  • Reintroduction of cattle and sheep in rotation with grain crops”
Windy Acres Farm produces and sells certified organic grains, grass fed beef and grass fed lamb, and eggs. They grow a variety of organic grains, including wheat, barley, spelt, clear and dark hilum soybeans, buckwheat, white and yellow corn, and hairy vetch. They have both food and feed grade grains, sold in 50 lb. bags or in bulk. Their beef and lamb are 100% grass fed. Their chickens run free on organic pastures and are fed only non-GMO certified organic grains that are raised on the farm.

“We are committed to the stewardship of the land and animals in our care. Our farm is USDA Certified Organic by Quality Certification Services and is protected by a conservation easement administered by the Land Trust for Tennessee.”For more information, visit:, visit them on facebook,or call 615-654-3599.
You may also want to check out the Tennessee Organic Growers Association:

The UT AgResearch Organic Crops Unit is located at 7315 Government Farm Road in Knoxville, TN. The facility is approximately 7 miles south of the UT Agricultural Campus and downtown Knoxville. For more information, contact the East Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center at 865-974-7201.

The East Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center is one of 10 outdoor laboratories operated by UT AgResearch, a division of the UT Institute of Agriculture. In addition to its agricultural research programs, the Institute of Agriculture also provides instruction 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.

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