From weed to your local restaurant, the Vonore factory changes take-out

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (WVLT) – When you step outside the city limits, eastern Tennessee quickly turns into a farming country. Your neighborhood farmer grows more than just fresh produce, this is especially true for some acres that just aren’t suitable for beans or corn.

A local business is expanding on these unused acres.

“If you are a farmer and you don’t care about the environment, then you won’t be farming for very long,” said Jake Harris.

Harris is ready to bale the switchgrass.

“If other crops go down, then you still have this,” Harris said.

On the historic Stokely Farm in Tellico Plains, they are in 40 acres of fallen grass, but about 150 acres in total.

When Stokely teamed up with Vonore’s Genera, they didn’t need any additional gear.

“Planted with a no-till seeder. Or drill. We harvest it with a disc hoe, ”said Harris.

Harris said the long roots help prevent flooding and late-season cutting helps restore nutrients to the soil.

“You don’t keep cultivating the same land by not taking care of it the right way,” Harris said.

Native grasses grow in soil that cannot support other plants.

“Most farms have low productivity land,” said Kelly Tiller, CEO of Genera.

“It was just another source of income. and some late ones who weren’t so good for the livestock or the crops, Harris added “

Grass from Stokely’s and other farms can be found here in Vonore in this center. These balls turn into packaging; biodegradable, compostable, recyclable. CEO Kelly Tiller said it’s not only good for the Earth, but also for the economy.

“The demand for these products is almost insatiable right now. And today almost everything that is available on the market is imported, ”Tiller said.

As restaurants bid for limited supplies and the boat sits offshore, Genera is expanding. A new 50,000 square foot building was erected behind the plant.

“We also have a local supply chain. This provides this material, which delivers to customers, ”Tiller said.

Tiller buys local switchgrass, sending it to regional distributors. This means fewer kilometers in the fossil fuel chain.

“They’re cost effective, they’re not just environmentally friendly,” Tiller said.

The clamshell containers, recognizable in some nearby delicatessens, are sturdy. Tiller said they are also clean.

“We are an unbleached plant. So we’re not adding any aggressive bleach, ”Tiller said.

She also said that Genera recycles almost all of the water inside the plant.

Unlike fresh produce, these herbs can be stored for years, when the demand increases and the demand is there.

“We need more farmers,” Tiller told WVLT News.

Soon you may be seeing native switchgrass all over the earth.

The climate continues to warm and international experts have said extreme droughts will become more common.

A team of plant biologists from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory added a poplar gene to the grass. This can help protect the plant from the climate, as it is now more resistant to drought and disease.

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