EKU Agriculture eNews, Fall 2013

Vol. 1, No. 1 - Fall 2013

Come home to Homecoming! Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013

EKU Agriculture Department Homecoming - Carter Building, 11:30 am

Inside this Issue:


Chair's Perspective

- Dr. John Settimi

It has been awhile. As you read through this edition, you’ll see that many changes have taken place - most notably new faces among faculty and staff.

After more than 30 years, Floriculture / Greenhouse faculty Dr. Steve Black retired this past summer. The Blacks plan to stay in Richmond. We expect that Dr. Black will teach part-time.

Dr. Corey Risch joined the Agribusiness faculty this summer. She completed her BS and MS degrees at Michigan State University, worked as an agricultural business consultant, and completed her PhD at the University of Minnesota.

We also welcome Ms. Amanda Tennant as our new Administrative Assistant, replacing Ms. Misty Kessler who has taken another position at EKU.

Two years ago, Dr. Ed Fredrickson joined the Department in the areas of Agroecology and Animal Science. Dr. Fredrickson is from New Mexico where he had a long and productive career with the USDA Agricultural Research Service. He earned his BS from Oregon State University, MS from Montana State, and PhD at New Mexico State.

Finally, just over three years ago I assumed the position of Department Chair and Professor of Agronomy. Former Chair Dr. Bruce Pratt now directs the CRAFT program.

There have also been some subtle and not so subtle changes. The Department has embarked on a multi-pronged approach to improve the student experience. Students are more involved in professional and social activities and are engaged in internship and research opportunities.

Degree programs have been updated and modified, new courses developed, and established courses reinvigorated. Emphasis has shifted towards small and medium-sized agricultural enterprises, which are more prevalent in Kentucky. In addition, we are looking at ways for families in rural areas to improve their livelihood through agricultural and horticultural enterprises. And the Carter Building, Meadowbrook Farm, and the Horticulture facilities and equipment have been upgraded.

Be sure to visit us during the EKU Agriculture Homecoming on October 19 to take in all the changes.

From the Editor

- Dr. Mike McDermott

I am starting my 12th year at EKU and “WOW”. The only constant around here is change. It's a good analogy to answer "how are things at Eastern?” Eastern's renovation is nearly complete - all change for the good.

I wear multiple hats for the department so let’s start with Agricultural Education updates. Owen County welcomes new teacher Matt Davis. Sara Neumeister is one of the two new ag teachers at Campbell County. Dustin Johnson completed his first year of teaching at Lynn Camp High School in Knox County. Also finishing first year teaching are Harvey Lewis Mink at Perry Central High School and Terra Stafford at North Hardin High. Natasha Evans (Somerset) is student teaching at Rockcastle County and Morgan Kendrick (Mercer County) is at Boyle County. During the spring semester, Ben Prewitt (Whitley County) and Meagan Shearer (Waco) will be completing their student teaching experience. The Agriculture Education program is going strong!

Teaching Agriculture Mechanics or “Ag Systems” course is Hat #2. Greater curriculum emphasis is being placed on energy and modern agriculture technology. Energy conservation and the creation of green energy is very popular. The Department is investigating alternative energy sources for Meadowbrook to reduce dependency on commercially produced power. I attended training workshops on solar and am impressed with the potential of “modern” solar photovoltaic energy. Ag Systems is also looking at converting cooking grease and oil into fuel.

Ag Club advisor is Hat #3. More than 40 students in the Ag Club are very active promoting agriculture. Their biggest event is “Meat in Monday” which involves giving out samples of meat and “FACTUAL” information on meat as part of a healthy and balanced diet. Madison County Cattlemen bring their grilling expertise to Powell Corner and Livestock Production students provide the information. The Ag Club also wants to have an antique tractor show this spring. So get your Farmall, John Deere, Ford, Case, Allis, Massey, Oliver, Cockshut, Coop, Minneapolis Moline, McCormick-Deering or Froelich tractors ready to show!

Hat #4 is working with our Agriculture Ambassadors. They are great group of our better students who help with recruitment at schools, campus tours, and the national FFA career show. These students are great communicators and good examples for prospective students. This year's ambassadors are: Mollie Borchers (Owen County); Haley Gilmore (Ohio); Meagan Moore (Whitley County); Ashley Owens (Lincoln County); Kim Patton (Laurel County); Kristin Kirchner (Indiana); Raleigh Thacker (Pike County); Jenifer Griebenow (Jackson County); Jessica Kilger (Ohio); Isaac Marcum (Madison County); BJ Tingle (Shelby County); Ethan Snyder (Meade County); Billy Cameron (Rockcastle County).

As the department’s recruitment coordinator (Hat #5), I am proud to say our numbers have increased by 28 percent. Recruitment by the entire department has been a top priority.

We're looking forward to reconnecting with you and all of our agriculture alumni at the Ag alumni reunion during EKU's Homecoming on October 19th. The Agriculture Department Chili Cook-off and Open House Honoring Dr. Stephen Black kicks off at 11:30 am.  Please tell any alumni you know about the homecoming event.

Faculty Highlight

- Dr. Corey Risch

Hello. I’m Corey Risch and I am excited to join the EKU Agriculture faculty! This fall I will teach Agribusiness and Agricultural Economics classes but will also teach  the records and marketing courses. 

My love of agriculture started on my family’s dairy farm in central Michigan. My grandparents started the farm by buying cattle from my great-grandparents’ farm. More recently, my parents and uncle operated the farm, milking about 150 cows. I got heavily involved with the farm in my early teens, where milking, feeding, and breeding cows were my primary jobs. My family’s farm is still operating, and they recently built a new dairy barn and expanded to 250 cows. My cousins are currently studying agriculture at Michigan State University and are excited to continue the farm well into the future.

I studied animal science and agricultural economics at Michigan State University. Study evaluating the cost of production on dairy farms stimulated my interest in how to improve the profitability of farms. I learned more about strategies to improve business success at Michigan State and then applied these lessons in my job after graduation. In my work as a farm business consultant for Clemson University Extension in South Carolina, I worked with farmers and agribusiness owners on recordkeeping, cost of production, tax planning, and management decisions. I provided financial information and consulted in management decisions such as crop rotation choices and business expansion. Clients included start-up businesses who were beginning and growing their operations. My favorite part of the job was helping clients define their vision, improve their business, and reach their goals for the operation. My graduate education was completed at University of Minnesota, studying economic issues that affect agricultural cooperatives. My research examined how government programs affect business survival and how management efforts to improve safety affect employee safety.

Using this education and experience, as well as new experiences with Kentucky agriculture, I hope to create interesting and enlightening courses for EKU Agriculture students. In class, students will see how economic principles influence the structure and functions of the agricultural industry. Students will also develop important skills for managing businesses, including financial recordkeeping and marketing. 

The students and faculty have been very welcoming and I am enjoying teaching. I am beginning to meet industry professionals, learn more about Kentucky agriculture, and look forward to the rest of this semester (and many more in the future).

Student Spotlight: Kaitlin Culver and the Farmer’s Market

Dr. Ed Fredrickson

Ag Business Student Develops Proposal to Bring Farmer’s Market to Eastern Kentucky University

Kaitlin Culver, an Agricultural Business and Marketing student, is developing a proposal to bring local farmer’s market to the campus of Eastern Kentucky University.

Representing more than 25 local farms, Madison County Farmer’s Market Association conducts three markets weekly from May through October. The Tuesday market is sponsored in part by the EKU Wellness Program and is located at the Keen Johnson Courtyard from 10 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. However, due to limited parking access, this market is primarily limited to EKU students, faculty, and staff. Tuesday and Saturday markets have a somewhat larger clientele and are held in Lowe’s parking lot in Richmond. 

According to Kaitlin Culver, “In the parking lot, the market is not visible from a major thoroughfare. People are not aware the market is there unless they shop at Lowe’s or park in portions of the Wal-Mart parking lot.” 

Kaitlin has considered several options. She concludes, “By placing Saturday’s market along Vicker’s Drive in front of the Carter Building, the market becomes visible from the busiest road in Richmond. Parking is plentiful. Plus, the market is more accessible to students living either on, or near campus. Everyone wins - farmers and increasing numbers of market patrons.”

“In addition to improving market conditions for local farmers,” Kaitlin believes, “there are benefits for EKU’s Department of Agriculture.”

Kaitlin says, “Farmer’s markets strengthen the linkage between rural and urban communities and provide better access to fresh produce, meats, and dairy products. Across the United States interest in farmer’s markets has risen steadily with more than 8,144 famer’s markets nationally that are listed in the USDA’s National Farmer’s Market Directory.”  According to USDA statistics, the number of farmer’s markets increased 3.6 percent during 2013.  

Kentucky Department of Agriculture Commissioner, James Comer, is among the Commonwealth’s most influential supporters of local farmer’s markets and “Kentucky Proud” products. Commissioner Comer commented in a recent press release that 145 markets in 100 Kentucky counties had sales exceeding $11.5 million this year. The press release concluded, “Farmer’s markets are becoming permanent members of their local communities.”

Kaitlin supports Commissioner Comer’s observation, “Farmer’s markets are becoming a major venue for buying and selling agricultural products.” She claims, “By partnering with Madison County Farmer’s Market, EKU provides a laboratory for majors in agricultural business and marketing. It furthers the Department of Agriculture’s goal of providing students with highly relevant, 'hands-on' experiences to learn about agriculture. ”

By having the market at the Carter Building, Kaitlin believes it provides a mechanism for students to share their interest in agriculture with the local community and with students across campus. She says, “Agriculture students often complain that other students on campus do [not] know what we do or the importance of agricultural sciences in providing safe and affordable foods. A farmer’s market is one more opportunity to communicate the importance of agriculture and the activities of our department.”

Department Chair, Dr. John Settimi says, “We support Kaitlin’s work. These types of independent projects allow our students to grow as professionals. In addition, it benefits everyone to enhance the connections among the students, the food consumers and the food producers.”

Kaitlin visited with Myra Isbell, President of the Madison County Farmer’s Market Association. “We are very interested in the idea,” Ms. Isbell commented. During the next two months Kaitlin plans on working with EKU administrators and faculty to write a proposal that Kaitlin and Ms. Isbell can present to Madison County farmers later this fall.

Kaitlin grins, “Hopefully, by next spring, agriculture will be a larger part of campus life at Eastern Kentucky University.” Kaitlin is the daughter of Becky and John Culver from Fisherville, Ky. She is currently a senior expecting to graduate in May 2014. 

Agronomy, Soils and Natural Resources

- Dr. John Settimi

Just looking at the title, you can see that there have been changes in Agriculture options. Soils merged with Agronomy and Natural Resources last year due to a lack of students and a full-time Agronomist. As part of the reorganization, new courses were added to the area in agroecology, soil management, crop production and advanced agricultural technologies.

The Agronomy, Soils and Natural Resources option encompass three of the Department’s areas of interest: Food, Energy and Livable Planet. Many young people today are expressing an interest in protecting the environment; so, I expect that more students will come into the Natural Resources area over the next few years. There has also been an increase in the number of students from Environmental Studies (Biology) taking our courses. Some of them may see the light and change their major to Agriculture!

Hagan’s Horticultural Happenings

- Mrs. Carla Hagan

Fifteen years now I’ve been holding down this desk and have seen a lot of changes. For many alums walking in the building today a lot has changed - students, staff, and professors to be sure. The building looks brighter and more contemporary and the CRAFT building is taking up a portion of our parking lot. However, we are still emphasizing the same successful model - hands on training, quality teaching, and people who really care about student success. Fortunately, for us we’re still getting wonderful students from both inside and outside our service region and the Agriculture Department “family” is intact. 

Over the years, I’ve watched the cycle - Ag numbers up, Hort numbers down, Hort numbers up, Ag numbers down. Horticulture numbers are down currently and that appears to be true for hort programs across the nation. But it is more difficult here because we are now without a landscape horticulture or a floriculture professor. Adjuncts are teaching the necessary courses for current students. In these tough economic times, the University has approved hiring of one Horticulture professor.  With a successful search, we could have a horticulture professor hired by January to start teaching, advising, and recruiting in the fall. 

Our Farm and Horticulture staff, 301 workers, and Ag Ambassadors have been working on increasing Agriculture visibility. Our primary concern is the general public getting further and further away from the land and their understanding of its science - which concerns all of our futures. We feed and beautify the world but are such a small segment of the population that I believe we are largely taken for granted. So I’m working with schools to bring their third grade students to us for Agriculture education. It fits well with the Kentucky school curriculum since environmental education begins in the third grade. In the fall, third graders come for greenhouse/garden activities that match their classroom curriculum. In the spring, the same classes return for farm activities with the same purpose. This is far more developed than a typical tour. Classes do learning activities ranging from viewing skits, scavenger hunts, experiments, physical games, planting, processing food etc.  We recently hosted our first 50 students of the semester. Many thanks to EKU Josh Jones, Kim Patton, Tandy Deskins and our Ag Ambassadors Haley Gilmore, Isaac Marcum, B.J. Tingle as well as John Duvall, our wonderful horticulture technician. We provided the kids with an excellent learning opportunity and they went away with a positive impression of Agriculture.  

On October 19th (Homecoming) we are planning a big chili cookoff lunch and a tribute for Dr. Black. Dr. Black tried to retire quietly but we can’t let him go without telling him know how much we appreciate him and his faithful service to the department and our students.  We hope to see you there!

Greetings from the busy (somewhat messy) desk of Dr. Laurie Rincker!

- Dr. Laurie Rincker

Sometimes when someone asks me how long I have been at Eastern I am amazed at how long it has actually been! As my eighth year at EKU begins, I am elated by the number of successful alumni I have had the privilege of getting to know in class. I continue to teach animal science–related courses and advise the preveterinary students. I also advise DTA, an honorary society for agriculture students, and organize many animal-related activities within the department.

EKU continues to have a presence at the Southern Regional Dairy Challenge Competition. This past fall, Kaitlyn Wooton, Emily Shephard, and I traveled to South Carolina. Students analyzed the production and management practices of a commercial dairy by reviewing records and touring the farm. Teams then presented their findings to a panel of experts and the host producers. Training has already begun for EKU students Billy Cameron, Caleb Clark, Stephanie Hammons, Celia Thomas, and Kaitlyn Wooton for this fall’s event, which will be held in Baton Rouge, La. Many of these students are planning to return to the family farm or work in the dairy industry. They are receiving invaluable skills in critical analysis of dairy farm management. Learn more about this incredible opportunity for our students at www.dairychallenge.org.

Many of you may recall memories of showing livestock at Meadowbrook Farms. This past year we started the tradition again with an annual EKU Stateland Dairy Show. A total of 20 students, many of them enrolled in AGR 380 (Dairy Management), spent the fall semester halter breaking a heifer. Twenty students were taught how to fit and show a heifer if they had no previous experience. The show was held last November with many friends and family in attendance. Caleb Clark (Lebanon) was the 2012 Grand Champion. Eric Phelps (Somerset) won the herdsperson award for doing the best job taking care of his animal, keeping the pens clean, and working well with other students. The judge for the event was Alta Mae Core, co-owner of Keightley-Core Jersey Farm in Salvisa. Plans are now underway to hold another dairy show along with a hog show on Saturday, October 5th

DTA continues to be a very active organization within the department and at the national level. Six members attended the National DTA Convention, which was hosted by University of Louisiana at Monroe this past spring. Members toured a vineyard and enjoyed true Louisiana cuisine including fried catfish, crawfish boil, and jambalaya. The meeting was held during the beginning of EKU’s spring break, which made me believe that our representation would be low. But some little TV show called Duck Dynasty reeled them in! We got to tour the set – including the Duck Call room, Willy’s office, and a Q&A with Alan, the oldest brother! This might not sound very exciting if you are not a Duck Dynasty fan. But if you are, then you will know this was quite an exciting adventure for our students! Members also attended business sessions and competed in the annual quiz bowl event. EKU received honorable mention for both the Corbus Award (scrapbook) and highest percentage of membership in attendance award. In addition, DTA was also very involved with the annual bedding plant fundraiser, gathering supplies for a local food pantry, and raising money for the recently formed Madison County 4-H Dairy Club.

In January, I took three students to the International Poultry Exposition in Atlanta. Although small in number, these three gentlemen made a tremendous impact on companies within this industry. Eric Phelps (Somerset) completed an internship in hatchery management with Cobb-Vantress this past summer. He still works part-time for Cobb and will be graduating in December. Tyler Rench (Ohio) graduated last May and works for Moark in Missouri.  Scott Benjamin (Ohio) also graduated in May and works for Agrium in Colorado.

Notes from Meadowbrook Farm

- Mr. Ray Marcum

As I am reflecting on our current status at EKU Meadowbrook Farm, everyone is extremely busy working in the livestock and crops enterprises. Currently we are chopping corn silage with an average yield of 28 tons per acre. This has been the best corn crop during my 31 years working at the farm. We are seeding cover crops with a mixture of wheat, oats, rye, crimson clover, radishes, and turnips for spring grazing.

The fall beef herd is currently calving. They were bred AI to Angus and Tarentaise sires and we are anxious to see the outcome of this calf crop. On the beef front, we are in the process of purchasing 250 feeder steers averaging 500 pounds that we will background to approximately 900 pounds.

The hogs, sheep, and goats are currently under my management which has been a learning experience. Due to EKU's reduction in work force, the livestock manager position was terminated. I want to thank Jerry Plummer for sixteen years of dedication to Meadowbrook Farm and wish him our best in his future endeavors.

The best part of this fall semester at the farm is working with the 13 Agriculture students as they experience hands-on learning through direct work experiences. They are a great group of students that I enjoy working with! If anyone is interested in hiring some exceptional young men and women, please give me a call.

EKU Stateland Dairy Update

- Dr. Laurie Rincker

The EKU Stateland Dairy celebrated its 100th anniversary on October 19, 2012; and there continues to be much to celebrate about the dairy!  For starters, the girls are milking great!!! Rolling herd average is now over 24,000 pounds with cows milking 76 pounds on the last test - cows grazing pasture with some TMR. The move to more grazing of the cows is for many reasons: reduce feed costs, reduce lameness, etc. Cows are now being rotated on three major sections of the farm, switching fields as seasons change. If you have any interest in grazing, come out and see what we are doing different at the farm! The cows are also enjoying some new comfy dual chamber waterbeds in the freestall barn, a much needed replacement of the old rubber mattresses.

EKU continues to bring home top awards from the State Dairy Recognition Dinner. This year, EKU won the District Production Award (beating out UK!) and were Second Place in the Dairy Proficiency Award. In 2012, EKU won the State Dairy Proficiency Award.

EKU Stateland Dairy is also adding some color to the farm. The Brown Swiss Association donated embryos to the farm a few years ago and we are slowly increasing the number of Swiss. Today you will find mainly black and white Holsteins with an ever increasing number of red and whites and Swiss.

The current staff at EKU Stateland Dairy includes Mr. Chad Powers, Dairy Manager. Chad graduated from Virginia Tech with a BS in Dairy Science and has an extensive resume in the dairy industry including Select Sires and several herdsman positions at prestigious dairy farms. Mr. Robby Estes was promoted from the Ag Tech position to Assistant Dairy Manager in 2010. Mr. Matt Collins was hired in 2010 for the Ag Tech position. Robby and Matt are both graduates of our program. The staff continues to spend countless hours providing service to the department and community. They offer farm tours to many school systems around the area and also provide tours to prospective students. Recently the staff was instrumental in establishing a Madison County 4-H Dairy Club. This past summer, 4-H members showed EKU heifers at the Madison County Fair, something that has not happened for a very long time.

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