Current Growers, Employees and Future Growers Can Benefit


Beth Blankenship, Blakenship Farms and Nursery, McMinnville, Tenn.
Beth Blankenship (center) of Blankenship Farms and Nursery in McMinnville is a graduate of the Tennessee Master Nursery Producer (TMNP) Program.  As a result of the taking the Tennessee Master Nursery Producer Program, she reviews proper planting depth with employees every time they start up the potting line. Photo courtesy Blankenship Farms and Nursery. Download image​.​


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Advanced Tennessee Master Nursery Producer Program is now available from University of Tennessee Extension. 

Designed as a professional development program for nursery crop producers, the Advanced Tennessee Master Nursery Producer (Advanced TMNP) course expands upon the topics presented in the original TMNP Program series. Both courses teach Tennessee nursery producers best practices to enhance their profitability and long-term environmental, economic and community sustainability. 

Initiated in 2012 with in-person classes, the original and popular TMNP course and the new Advanced TMNP course will both be conducted online to reach producers and potential producers in a way that fits their schedules and needs, says UT Extension nursery crops specialist Amy Fulcher. The nursery sustainability expert is responsible for coordinating the development of the curriculum for both of the programs. Fulcher says, “About 98 percent of growers completing the original TMNP Program stress the convenience of the online format. Many indicate that due to other employment or commitments, they could not have otherwise completed the program.”  

“Anyone can register and start working through the original and then the advanced curriculum,” says Fulcher. “They are designed, however, for nursery owners, growers, nursery employees and anyone who thinks they may like to start a plant nursery in the future.” Fulcher adds that regional Extension agents and employees of garden centers and greenhouse operators could benefit from learning the best practices as well; however, the program is designed specifically for those whose business centers on plant nursery production.

Program topics fall into one of three categories: marketing and economics, production, and pest management. They include modules on topics such as social media; lean flow; patents and trademarks; business succession planning; advanced irrigation; pot-in-pot production; hydrangea production; soils; and disease, weed, and insect control. Fulcher says that based on grower feedback, the Advanced TMNP Program was designed to include both core and elective modules so growers can personalize the program to fit the needs of their businesses.

Past participants of the online TMNP course have estimated that employing the principles taught in the course would “earn” them an average of $11,149 in cost savings and increased plant quality.   

“One of the most rewarding aspects of coordinating the TMNP Program is hearing nursery growers’ plans when they graduate from the program – the ideas they have for their nursery – and then seeing them put those ideas in to action,” says Fulcher. She adds that growers have solarized used containers, protected potting substrate from wind-borne seeds, and conducted regular planting depth reminders with crews as a result of their participation in the TMNP Program. 

TMNP graduate Rickey Hildreth, who operates Rickey A. Hildreth Farms in McMinnville, explains the effect on his business. “We’ve radically changed our trimming. The TMNP gave us new insight on speed and quality of growth. We grew some of the best oaks and maples that we’ve ever grown since making these changes. I wish we had this program 40 years ago.”

Another TMNP graduate who is about to take the Advanced TMNP course, Dale Bennett of Swan Mill Nursery in McMinnville, said, “The TMNP Program made me aware of things I was not aware of before. It is a good overview of the industry and the practices that we should be following.” Bennett was able to purchase equipment for his business through cost sharing funding provided by the TAEP because he qualified for the additional cost share with his TMNP certificate. He’s looking forward to expanding his business even more through the Advanced TMNP Program. “People who are participating are greatly benefitting,” he said.

The cost of either the TMNP or the Advanced TMNP course is $125 per registrant, and upon completion graduates are issued a certificate and eligible for 50 percent Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program (TAEP) cost share. To verify requirements for the TAEP program, or other TAEP questions, please contact the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA), 615-837-5136, or by email to producer.diversification@tn.gov​.

For more details or to register, visit the TMNP online​

Growers are encouraged to take the course needed prior to the September 1, 2019, TAEP deadline if they do not have a current TMNP certificate. Fulcher urges all growers to take advantage of these educational opportunities to enhance their profitability and sustainability.

The curriculum was developed by the Tennessee Master Nursery Committee under the leadership of UT Extension with representation from Tennessee State University. Development of the Advanced TMNP program was made possible by a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant administered by TDA.​
 
Through its mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. ag.tennessee.edu.

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Contact:

Amy Fulcher, UT Department of Plant Sciences, 865-974-7152, afulcher@utk.edu