TFBF Annual Photo Contest: Readers’ Choice

August 1, 2011

Our readers’ choice winners for the 16th annual TFBF Photo Contest (2011) are now posted online here. Stay tuned for the announcement of our overall prize winners in November with the publication of our winter 2011-12 issue.

Giveaway: The Southern Slow Cooker Bible

August 19, 2014

The Southern Slow Cooker Bible

It’s no secret that a true Southerner loves the slow cooker. When busy days call for comforting flavors, a trusty slow cooker is ready to do all the work for you.

With a year’s worth of dishes, Tammy Algood’s The Southern Slow Cooker Bible delivers the South’s signature flavors with the convenience of using a slow cooker. From mouthwatering favorites like Macaroni & Cheese and Pulled Pork to new twists on Chicken & Dumplings and Peach Cobbler, the cookbook features classic recipes sure to satisfy the appetites of hungry family and friends.

Eager to get your hands on The Southern Slow Cooker Bible? We’re giving away a copy throughout the month of September! Enter below for your chance to win! And leave a comment with your favorite slow cooker dish.

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Fall Decorating Services Offer Picture-Perfect Pumpkins

August 19, 2014

Fall decorating services

Love fall decor but don’t have the time or craftiness to set up an autumn display? You’re in luck. Several farms in Tennessee offer fall decorating services, and they’ll gladly bring a picturesque piece of the farm to your front lawn.

Denise and Kenneth Wright started growing pumpkins on their Obion County farm in 2011 and began providing fall decorating services in 2013.

“We started growing pumpkins as a hobby just to see if we could do it and make a little extra money,” says Kenneth, who works full-time at Waymatic Inc., a custom metal fabrication lab his grandfather founded in South Fulton in 1954. “Now pumpkins are an obsession. We look forward to getting them in the ground every year, and our two boys, Gentry (6) and Jaxon (5), really enjoy planting, pulling weeds, washing and selling them with us.”

Denise is the “crafty” one in the family, so she combined her love of fall and decorating to create the Wright Pumpkins Fall Decoration Set-up and Removal Service. She is also a graduate student pursuing her master’s degree in speech pathology at Murray State University.

SEE MORE: DIY Toilet Paper Pumpkins

Fall decorating services

“We borrowed the idea from our friend Andy Holt, who offers fall decorating services at his farm near Dresden,” Denise says. “It was a huge success our first year and has been such a blessing. We set it all up so people don’t have to deal with it, and we use good quality pumpkins. Many people want to have something pretty in their yard, but they don’t want to have to think about it.”

The Wrights serve Union City, Martin, South Fulton and western Kentucky. Their fall display packages cost $30 (small), $80 (medium) and $115 (large), while delivery and setup is a flat $25 fee. Each package includes bales of straw, Indian corn, gourds and pumpkins in different sizes. Clients can choose the amount they want to spend and can add colorful stacking pumpkins to their package in sets of three for $15 to $25, depending on the size. When the season ends, the Wrights will remove the display for $10.

“We wash every pumpkin and gourd in bleach water and scrub all the mud and dirt off so they last longer,” Kenneth says. “One lady told us her fall display lasted until Christmas.”

The family advertises on Facebook, but most of their customers come by word-of-mouth.

“People start looking for pumpkins in mid-September, and they go fast. By the end of September, our large pumpkins are mostly gone,” Denise says. “Sometimes people see us setting up displays and decide they want one in their yard too. We put our heart into it and do everything to the best of our ability. You just tell us where you want your display to go, and we make it look picture-perfect.”

Fall decorating services

Denise was raised on a farm in Sharon, where her family, the Waterfields, farmed corn, soybeans and wheat and had dairy cattle.

“I grew up milking cows and helping during harvest, so farming is who I am,” she says. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Kenneth and I are so grateful for our parents, who have given us support and encouragement and helped us pick and wash so many pumpkins.”

SEE MORE: Have a Field Day at the Annual Pumpkin Field Day

If you’re interested in dressing up your lawn for harvest time, you can find farms that provide fall decorating services across the state. Among them are Holt Family Farms in Weakley County, Lucky Ladd Farms in Rutherford County, Classic Plantings Nursery and Fresh Produce in Cocke County, and Hidden Meadow Farms in Greene County.

“We have decorated several businesses and banks in the past two years, and we are starting to expand to private residences,” says Heather Williams, who owns Hidden Meadow Farms with her husband, Jonathan. “We have sold many decorative pumpkins, gourds, fodder and straw, and we’ve assisted customers in picking out items for home decorations from our sale location. This crop is the most exciting and fun for our entire family.”

If you’re the do-it-yourself type, consider trying to grow your own pumpkins.

“They’re a challenge, but a whole lot of fun,” Kenneth says. “UT Extension is a huge resource for great information on pumpkin growing, and their annual Pumpkin Field Day in September is awesome.”

Denise says “the sky is the limit” when it comes to decorating with pumpkins.

“You can be as creative as you want to be. Instead of cutting into pumpkins, it’s neat for kids to paint faces or designs on them with glow-in-the-dark puff paint,” she says. “Or get messy and cut into them. Make it fun and just explore God’s creation through pumpkins.”

Fall decorating services

The Pumpkin Kings

Here are a few of the Tennessee farms that offer fall decorating services.

The Wright Pumpkins
South Fulton
(731) 479-8016 or (731) 514-3207

Holt Family Farms
(731) 364-3459 or (731) 819-2261

Lucky Ladd Farms
(615) 274-3786

Classic Plantings Nursery and Fresh Produce
(423) 721-8085 or (423) 237-3171

Hidden Meadow Farms
(423) 823-1420

Let the Good Times Grow at the Tennessee State Fair

August 19, 2014

State Fair

Get ready to “Let the Good Times Grow,” the theme of this year’s Tennessee State Fair. The 2014 event is all about celebrating growth in recent years. Taking place Sept. 5-14 at the state fairgrounds in Nashville, it draws residents from all over the state for fun, entertainment, food, livestock events and much more.

Don’t miss the crowning of the best apple pie in the state at the Tennessee Two-Crust Apple Pie contest, or the fast-paced Dodging for Dollars event, the second annual dodgeball tournament.

And there are some new things happening at this year’s fair, too. The Festival of the Nations Music Stage will expand to include an International Food Court, serving Mexican, Italian, Thai and Chinese food, among others. Visitors can enjoy a parade through the middle of the fair at 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, which will showcase artists, animals, tractors, local mascots, clowns and other performers.

This year’s fair will also welcome American Pickers’ Mike Wolfe and his Kid Pickers program. Local children ages, 7-13, will have items they picked on display throughout the fair, get the chance to sell them and meet Mike.

For more information, visit

Thanksgiving Recipes For the Bird and Beyond

August 19, 2014

Thanksgiving Recipes

For the past couple of years, I’ve been on the volunteer list to cook for a local food bank. We prepare a wholesome dinner for 100 with food gleaned from gardens, overruns, almost-expired store items and day-old baked goods. Each meal pushes our team to be mindful of using all we’ve been given – and to make it taste good.

An unexpected benefit to cooking this way is that it has taught me to loosen things up in my personal cooking. My son recently brought home a box of vegetables from a friend with a large garden. It challenged me to open my mind and waste nothing. Over a period of a few days, I made pickles, pepper jelly, a kale omelet, roasted beets, a veggie pizza and caramelized eggplant.

SEE MORE: Thanksgiving Recipes for Your Holiday Table

If I had been given the same box of goodies before I learned to cook this way, the result would surely have been different.

All of the CSA members out there know what I’m talking about. Rather than wondering what to do with those pesky zucchinis, we make ratatouille, zucchini bread, pickles and zucchini chocolate cake.

Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to shake things up a bit, make the most of late season produce and to honor traditions. The recipes in this story are meant to open the door to a slightly new way to celebrate American holiday classics. I hope you’ll incorporate a few new things in this year’s celebrations. I’m going to prepare whatever I’m given and will remember to be thankful for all of it.

SEE MORE: Turkey Tips

Fresh Cranberry Relish

First up is the star of the table – the turkey. Ever since I began brining my turkeys, the end results have been consistently moist and flavorful. The only difficult part is handling the big, slippery bird. The other challenge at holiday time is dedicating refrigerator space to the brining bird. Tackle this first. I have to reshuffle shelves and use my second refrigerator. You might need to enlist a neighbor or relative to offer space, but follow these instructions for Easy Turkey Brining for a simple, savory centerpiece.

Next up is a classic, Fresh Cranberry Relish. This ruby red condiment offers an ideal fresh option to cooked and preserved versions. It’s also speedy quick to make. It makes a perfect hostess gift. Bring a jar for friends to put on chicken, pork, on crackers with goat cheese … oh, and turkey!

Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Parmesan and Garlic

Brussels sprouts may not be on everyone’s Thanksgiving menu, but I like to serve them warm in a sauté with garlic and chicken stock in this recipe for Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Garlic and Parmesan. Some grocery stores even sell them pre-shredded, so you can avoid the first step.

Roasted Root Vegetables

I also include another healthy side dish, Roasted Root Vegetables with Rosemary. Whatever is still fresh from the garden or produce stand will be ideal. Be creative and toss in anything you have. Steer toward hearty items such as carrots, parsnips, onions, rutabagas, winter squash (such as butternut, Hubbard or acorn), turnips, pumpkin, beets and potatoes.

Quick Pear Cranberry Crostata

Finally, in addition to all the pies, cakes and other traditional sweets, here’s a recipe for Quick Pear & Cranberry Crostata. This is a great way to use up late season pears, or you can substitute with apples, if desired.

No matter if you try these recipes for the holidays or just an average weeknight dinner, we give thanks to our farmers for providing such delicious food to put on our tables.

Aunt Sadie Has a Yard Sign

August 19, 2014

On a beautiful Tennessee fall afternoon, I pulled in the long gravel driveway of Uncle Sid and Aunt Sadie’s farm. Their white frame house, located among the landscape of the multi-colored hillsides, showed perfectly what autumn on a Tennessee farm is all about. But among the fall foliage next to the drive, I noticed a red, white and blue yard sign stuck in the ground for everyone to see.

I knew Uncle Sid didn’t like those things because he didn’t even let me put one there when I was running for county commissioner. “Folks ought to vote for who you are, not how many signs you have up and down the road,” he had said. I couldn’t wait to hear his explanation for this one.

Aunt Sadie met me at the front door, wiping her hands on her apron as usual, and led me to the back portion of their house. There, sitting at the round kitchen table, was Uncle Sid sipping on a cup of coffee and working on a plate of Aunt Sadie’s homemade cookies. We exchanged pleasantries, and I took my seat at the table to share some of those cookies. Uncle Sid once again directed his attention to the plate.

“Just saw a sign at the road in your yard supporting Amendment No. 2 in the Nov. 4 election. Thought you didn’t like yard signs,” I said, looking down at my cookies.

Rolling his eyes and giving a deep sigh, he answered, “Ain’t my sign, it’s your Aunt Sadie’s.”

“It’s an important vote, and if people don’t pay attention, they will let those four amendments on the ballot slip by, and No. 2 is the most important,” said my little gray-haired aunt, taking off her apron and standing over the two of us.

I could tell she had something to talk about, so I grabbed one of the cookies meant for Uncle Sid and waited for my aunt to get on her soapbox.

“A preacher told a story the other night about a man who had two mules he couldn’t tell apart,” she began. “So, he cut one mule’s mane fairly close and the other mule’s tail somewhat shorter. That worked for a while until they both grew back out, and then the man had to come up with another way to solve his problem.”

I was surprised by Aunt Sadie’s storytelling lead and could tell that Uncle Sid also was wondering where this was going. Aunt Sadie continued: “The man decided to study his problem a little closer, and after a detailed examination and a lot of studying, he came up with a solution. He determined that the white mule was two inches shorter than the black mule.”

The room grew silent and both our eyes seemed to cloud over for a second. I wanted to laugh, but thought better and just waited to see what was coming next.

“You see,” said Aunt Sadie, smiling at us, “many times we can’t see the true answer for looking too deep at our problem. There are those who wish to elect our appellate judges, who are the Supreme Court justices, the 12 judges on the Court of Appeals, and the 12 judges of the Court of Criminal Appeals. They want to put them into all this political stuff we have now with campaign funding and getting folks to back them. If we vote yes on Amendment 2 in November, we get to keep a system similar to our current one by continuing to trust the governor to appoint the most qualified people. We’ll also be adding a new layer of accountability by having our elected representatives in the legislature confirm or reject the governor’s appointees. Then, we still vote on whether to keep the judges at the end of their respective terms.”

Uncle Sid and I sat there looking at Aunt Sadie in total amazement. Our coffee was cold, but it didn’t matter. All I wanted was one of those yard signs.

Uncle Sid turned to me and said, “See why I let her put that sign at the road? It’s amazing what they talk about at those FCE meetings each week. I just hope folks vote for that Amendment No. 2, because if they don’t, we menfolk will be back to store-bought cookies, and our courts will have these ladies to deal with.”

Aunt Sadie also has a way with words.

Living History for the Battle of Johnsonville

August 19, 2014

Civil War

Be a part of history at the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Johnsonville, happening Nov. 1-2 at Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park and the Johnsonville State Historic Area.

In honor of the momentous sesquicentennial event, visitors can experience artillery, infantry, cavalry and civilian demonstrations. Vendors will be on site selling period clothing and gifts, plus delicious food.

Students have the chance to experience the event a day early for School Days on Oct. 31, with a Halloween trail and storytelling that evening.

For more information on the event, visit or call (931) 535-2789.

6 Plants Thomas Jefferson Grew That You Can Grow Today

August 19, 2014

Ready to add a bit of Jefferson’s influence to your garden? Start small by sowing a few of his favorite seeds in your plots. You can purchase seeds for the following varieties at

‘Tennis Ball’ Lettuce: Jefferson advised sowing a thimble full of lettuce seed every Monday. He touted ‘Tennis Ball’ among his favorites because “it does not require so much care and attention” as other types.

West Indian Gherkin: Jefferson’s home in Washington, D.C., had a pickle barrel for guests, and the gherkin, grown at Monticello, was included among these delicacies.

English Peas: Always up for a healthy competition, Jefferson and his neighboring farmers competed to see who would be the first to harvest peas in spring.

Purple Calabash Tomatoes: In Jefferson’s day, many regarded tomato plants as poisonous, but he was one of the first to plant them. He had a fondness for Calabashes, which are a ribbed and scalloped variety that work well in pastes and sauces.

Okra: Jefferson edged his tomato garden with okra, perhaps provoking the idea of cooking the two vegetables together for a savory dish.

Sesame Seed: Jefferson used these seeds to create salad oil and proclaimed them “among the most valuable acquisitions our country has ever made.” Due to their ornamental nature, he often planted them as a border to his garden.

Lessons From Thomas Jefferson’s Garden

August 19, 2014

When you think of Thomas Jefferson, the term “founding father” probably springs to mind. However, Jefferson was not only a pioneer of our great nation but also a trailblazer in home and garden practices. Monticello, his Virginia estate, was a breeding ground for new garden plantings – both tasteful in their design and literally full of taste when harvested.

Jefferson conceived many of these ideas for his home’s grounds during a 1786 trip to England on diplomatic business with his good friend John Adams. During their two-month stay, the pair found time to tour English gardens and observe how they grew. I personally had the good fortune to spend two years studying abroad in Manchester, England, on a Rotary scholarship. I like to say I spent two years with Jefferson during that period because I visited so many of the same gardens.

Just as he was influenced, so was I. When building my own Moss Mountain Farm, I turned to Jefferson’s garden practices for insight and inspiration because he is so renowned for his innovative ideas – and the principles can be applied to any size garden in any space. Here are three ways Jefferson specifically influenced the way I designed my garden, grow my vegetables and enjoy the beauty of it all.

Terrace Gardens

The vegetable garden at Monticello influenced my terrace gardens at Moss Mountain. Carved along a hillside, it was designed by Jefferson to be a 1,000-foot-long space divided into 24 plots.

To recreate the effect, I followed the contours of the old farm’s terraces to create 320 feet of planting space that gently curves around the side of a hill near my home. A mixed border of shrubs, roses, perennials and annuals occupies the upper terrace, while the lower terrace is planted with flowers for cutting, herbs and fruits. Rather than designing one big planting, which can be overwhelming, the lower terrace is divided into small spaces – similar to the way Jefferson divided his terrace garden into more manageable plots. If you’re working with a large space, I encourage you to consider dividing it into “garden rooms” that will make it easier to design. Think of this process the same way you would think of a floor plan for the interior of your home.

The One-Acre Vegetable Garden

Jefferson wasn’t one to limit himself to well-known staples in the garden either. At Monticello, he grew 330 different varieties of vegetables and 170 varieties of fruits. At Moss Mountain, I wanted to experiment with different plants just as he did, so I started a one-acre vegetable garden to give me the space to plant a wide range of diverse edibles.

SEE MORE: 6 Plants Thomas Jefferson Grew That You Can Grow Today

I think of this as a test garden or a plot to explore new varieties. No matter what size your garden may be, be sure to leave a little room to try something new. You never know what you might discover.

Octagon-Shaped Retreats

Not only did Jefferson’s garden design and plantings inspire me, but so did the architecture at Monticello. The two octagon-shaped buildings in the terrace gardens at Moss Mountain Farm are a nod to Jefferson’s garden pavilion. He built his pavilion in a central location of the vegetable garden, and it served as a sheltered place where one could view the surrounding landscape, quietly think, read or even entertain. I use my octagonal buildings much the same way. Jefferson set his pavilion at the midway point of his vegetable garden. If you take nothing else away from this, I hope you’ll create a space in your garden where you can relax and enjoy it. After all, why create it if you aren’t going to enjoy it?

Finally, if you’re like me and can’t get enough of Thomas Jefferson’s practices, I suggest furthering your reading by picking up my friend Peter Hatch’s book, A Rich Spot of Earth: Thomas Jefferson’s Revolutionary Garden at Monticello. Peter has served as director of gardens and grounds at Monticello for more than 35 years, so he’s an expert through-and-through on all of Jefferson’s gardening practices. And, if you’re wondering what to do with all of those vegetables when harvest comes, pick up Mary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife. Written in 1824 by Jefferson’s first cousin, this recipe book holds the secrets to preparing everything from okra and tomatoes to catfish soup. Some consider it to be the first American cookbook.

Whether it’s from a founding father or the patriarch of your own family, examining past practices and techniques can offer insight about why we garden the way we do today. So, I hope you’ll join me by digging into history and finding new ways of looking at your own garden.

Turkey Talk: Facts About Turkeys

August 19, 2014

turkey facts

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and that means we’ve got turkey on the brain. An estimated 88 percent of Americans still serve turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, with the average bird ringing it at around 15 pounds. Take a look at some of these interesting facts about turkeys before the feast:

SEE MORE: Thanksgiving Recipes for Your Holiday Table

  • Turkeys exhibit a flock mentality, with birds often acting and reacting with what appears to be a single mind. Each flock has its own personality.
  • The common commercial turkey displays white plumage simply because the color has been bred out. Pigment in the feathers can discolor the bird’s skin during dressing, resulting in a less appetizing presentation.
  • There is no difference in taste between male and female turkeys.
  • Along with the carb-loaded overindulgence that comes with Thanksgiving, turkey is indeed conducive to napping. It is naturally high in l-tryptophan, which is believed to produce a calming effect.
  • More than 253.5 million turkeys were raised in the U.S. in 2012.
  • A baby turkey is called a poult. It is tan and brown.
  • Turkey eggs are tan with brown specks and are larger than chicken eggs.
  • Toms are male turkeys, hens are female turkeys.
  • In 2012, U.S. consumption of turkey was 16 pounds per person.

Check out more turkey tips for Thanksgiving dinner at

Plant Mums This Fall

August 19, 2014


To beautify your fall landscape, you can’t go wrong with mums. Short for chrysanthemums, these hardy flowers come in a variety of seasonal colors with blooms that last for weeks.

Mums have great cover, so stick to one or two colors for curb appeal from a distance. They’re perfect for mass plantings too, adding bold color to any landscape. Here are a few things to remember when growing mums:

Choose a location that gets at least six hours of sun per day. Make sure your soil is well-drained, as mums are not a fan of soggy soil. After planting new mums, water them thoroughly, never letting them wilt. After they’ve established roots, they’ll need about an inch of water per week. Avoid overhead watering as it can lead to disease.

After the first hard frost, prepare your mums for winter with mulch. When the weather warms up, pull away mulch to allow new shoots. If you’re looking for varieties that perform well in landscaping, try Clara Curits, Ryan’s Yellow or Sheffield Pink.

For more information on growing mums, visit