From left, Logan Pryor, Eli Stafford, Kanen Rushing, Hunter Dennis, Grayson Black and Tara Riddle of Dade's Future Farmers of America were front and center at last Thursday's 2018 Dade County Agricultural Day--AKA "Ag Day." That's because they're on a mission, as this FFA T-shirt puts it (right).
The young people's immediate mission is to resuscitate their club. FFA used to be big at the high school, just as agriculture used to be big in Dade County. Then, as the 20th Century segued into the 21st, the farmers started dying off, agriculture in the county started dying out, and at the school, FFA also lapsed into obscurity.
Now all that is turning around. The high school has brought back an agricultural program with a full-time agriculture teacher, Greg Martin; the FFA is teeming with bright, energetic young blood; and The Planet is happy to tell you that Ag Day 2018 was bigger and better-attended even than last year. Despite 90-degree heat that made certain attendees wish the food vendors were hawking ice cream instead of cupcakes, the fair was packed.
Does this mean agriculture is making a significant comeback as a way of life in Dade County? Maybe--especially if enough residents make it their mission. Whether or not you're ready to jump on the farm wagon to that extent, The Planet invites you to hop aboard now for a sun-drenched spin around the Sept. 20 event.
If agriculture has dwindled in the county, the Dade 4-H program is, anyway, alive and well. Dade was without a county extension agent for years following the death of longtime agent Ted Dyer, and is now again in the same boat after Katie Hammond, the dynamic agent who finally took Dyer's place, did a little too good a job and got kicked upstairs. Nevertheless, 4-H persisted, as evidenced by last week's fair--and that's in no small part due to the efforts of people
like Fancher Nakhleh (above, center, clutching a jar of expertly pickled okra), Dade Middle School science teacher and 4-H volunteer extraordinaire, and Alison Henderson (right), 4-H extension educator. Another important Dade agriculture figure, Stephen Bonteroe, the county's soil conservationist, is visible behind Ms. Nakhleh.
Farm animals are always a big part of the draw at an ag fair and this year there were goats, ducks, cattle, turkeys, rabbits...just about everything associated with a barnyard or an ark. 4-H kids learn to take care of many different kinds of animals. Jonathan Mashburn shows off his cattle at right, and at left Ivy Nakhleh says her tiara denotes her status as Princess of the Rabbits.
Now let's take a break from the barnyard for a quick community announcement. The Trenton-Dade Optimists (above) had a booth at Ag Day and wanted to remind everybody that their annual bowling tournament is coming up. The 2018 Optimist tournament will take place from 2-4 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 18, at Hixson Holiday Bowl, 5330 Hixson Pike, Hixson. To participate, simply find enough friends to form fundraising teams of four. Each bowler pays $20 for three games, shoe rental included, and your money will help support the Optimists' youth projects. Call Terry Nida (423-718-6160) or Sarah Moore (706-398-1392) for more information. Pictured above are, from left, Optimists Sarah Moore, Jane Dixon, Eloise Gass and Joy Golden.
Now. Back to agriculture: Also highlighted at the ag-fair were agriculture-related skills. At left, above, Cheri Miller shows how to felt wool. Ms. Miller has a sheep farm in Rising Fawn and weaves, knits, crochets and otherwise crafts her homegrown wool into clothing, toys and curiosities. She sells her wares at the Mentone (Ala.) and Main Street (Chattanooga) farmers markets and at local fairs like this one.
Charles Henderson, meanwhile, was on hand to demonstrate another time-honored farm skill, blacksmithing. A blacksmith is an artisan--the old word for that is "smith"--who creates or repair objects made of wrought iron or steel by forging the metal and using tools to hammer, bend and cut it. Also visible in the photograph is Samantha Mashburn.
Quilts by, among others, Verenice Hawkins and Liz Riddle (left) were also on display at this year's Ag Day. Ms. Riddle gives quilting lessons at her shop, the Lily Pad/Quilter's Garden, at 12695 N. Main St. in Trenton.
Now. Time for another Important Community Announcement: Heather Scott-Wallin of the Dade County DFACS (Department of Family and Children Services) is, as always, desperate for foster families for displaced children. As detailed in an earlier Planet article (click the photo to go there), you can be a full-time, part-time or just fill-in foster parent, whatever commitment you're comfortable with; and so many children need placement now that whatever age or gender child you're more at home with can probably be assigned to you in pretty short order. Additionally, sponsoring a child for Christmas is also a huge help to the agency. This means not entertaining a child in your home but simply buying Christmas presents. Interested? Call (877) 210-5437; or Ms. Wallin holds an information meeting on foster parenting at 6 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month at the Dade DFACS office, located in the county Administrative Building).
And finally, local small businesses also made their presence felt at the yearly agricultural fair. Uncle Lar's Outpost and The L'il Chicken Coop provided food and cold drinks, and other family-owned businesses also hosted booths. Pictured here are mobile or home-based businesses (left) Mister Sandman Flooring, which builds and refinishes floors, and Bugstuff.me, which sells all-natural insect repellant as well as other outdoor skin products.
All of these are family-run businesses from right here in Dade County and the Rising Fawn Metro Area. You can find Bugstuff online at Bugstuff.me and Mister Sandman at mistersandmanflooring.com; Uncle Lars has a shop on Highway 136 West, or go to unclelarsoutpost.com; The Li'l Chicken Coop is on Facebook and has a physical location at Crabtree and Main, right next to Citizens Banks and Trust.
For the next convenient chance to patronize local businesses, support local agriculture and craftspeople, and commune with your community, please don't forget the Dade Small Business Expo all day long on Dec. 8 at Dade County High School.