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Common Ground

Extension colloborators who are working together towards a solution for disconnected coutnies

Bridging the Urban-Rural Digital Divide

Broadband internet access has become commonplace in many areas of Tennessee. However, residents of some rural counties in the state still lack access, an absence that potentially disadvantages students, businesses, and the lifestyles of these residents. A grant is enabling UT Extension to target a solution for these disconnected counties and evaluate strategies to connect the unconnected.

Together We Grow

Screen capture from video about the campaign

September 22, 2018, marked the public launch of UTIA's most ambitious campaign ever. Together We Grow has the challenging goal of raising $175 million by the year 2022 from nonpublic sources to extend Real. Life. Solutions. to new generations. The success of this campaign will enable us to strengthen food, fiber, and energy systems; enhance biodiversity and environmental quality; enrich our economy; develop our workforce; and strengthen our health. Please consider joining us in this grand vision. It will take all of us to grow. Together, we can impact tomorrow.

Events Ahead

Peace Corps Prep Launches with Ceremony TodayHowl-O-Ween Pet Parade, October 21Buggy Buffet (Insect Smorgasbord), October 25Formal Launch of Smith International Center, November 16

Message from the Chancellor

While Ag Day 2018 occurred in mid-September, friends, alumni, and community members continue to tell me how much they enjoyed the event. In addition to celebrating and sharing about UTIA's people and programs, we were able to recognize three special individuals with UTIA awards as you will read in this issue. We had the chance to pause, also, to hear UT President Joe DiPietro reminisce on his time with UTIA and to express our appreciation for all he has done and continues to do for the University.

With President DiPietro's pending retirement next month, the UT Board of Trustees appointed Randy Boyd, also a familiar face to our campus, as interim president. Through his engagement with several UT College of Veterinary Medicine outreach initiatives, he has a true appreciation of the role UTIA plays within the UT System and throughout the state, especially in our rural counties. We are excited about his appointment and look forward to working with him.

Ag Day weekend also marked something else special, the launch of Together We Grow. Together We Grow is a giving campaign for UTIA, the most ambitious to date. The support it can provide will set us on a course to deliver real-life solutions in new ways, to the people we already serve and to many more individuals and communities both within Tennessee and beyond our state’s borders. Through the video above, you can learn more about the campaign and its goals, as well as the promise it holds for all of us at UTIA.

This month Linda Bower, Ann Berry, and Heather Wallace of UT Extension were honored for their achievements by Epsilon Sigma Phi, the national organization of Extension professionals. Congratulations to each of you on these significant awards. Details on the honors follow below.


P.S. Be sure to follow me and the latest Institute developments on Twitter at @UTIAChancellor.


Epsilon Sigma Phi Awards to FourUS DARPA Award Seeds New UTIA Research Center

A Moment in UTIA's Fifty Years

An aerial photo of Lone Oaks Farm

In 2015, UT secured a 1,200-acre farm property in Hardeman County with the intent to build a premier youth and adult education center and a host site for the Tennessee 4-H Youth Development Program. Lone Oaks Farm has since hosted more than 2,500 students from fifteen counties in West Tennessee, providing a superior environment for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education.

In September, FedEx Corp. announced a $1 million challenge grant toward the establishment of a STEM Education Center. The proposed center will be a central hub for all youth groups, providing learning opportunities on cutting-edge technology like GIS, drones, and genetic technology while at the same time offering outdoor experiences like stargazing and nature walks.

Lone Oaks' size and the capacity of its resources require careful thought to realize their full potential. Recognizing that need, UTIA conducted a national search in 2016 to identify design firms well suited to develop a comprehensive master plan for the entire property. Across a ten-month planning period, a design team led by the firm Nelson, Byrd, and Woltz of Charlottesville, Virginia, and assisted by el dorado from Kansas City and Whitaker and Associates from Chattanooga interacted with more than 200 stakeholders, experts, and consultants. Their resulting plan is receiving accolades in the design world. This year it has been honored with a 2018 Merit Award from the Virginia Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects, the 2018 Merit Award from the American Society of Landscape Architects, and the 2018 Special Citation by the Society of College and University Planning.

Special Times at Ag Day 2018

A photo of Farm Bureau's Farmer Charlie at Ag Day

Ag Day 2018—#UTIAAgDay18—was full of fun, lively experiences and a spirited orange-and-white crowd of friends, family, and community members. In fact, we believe this year’s Ag Day set a new attendance record. At the event, we honored Tennessee Farmer of the Year Johnny Verell of Madison County. We presented the Institute's 2018 Horizon Award to Colleen Cruze Bhatti of Knoxville's Cruze Dairy, a recognition that honors high achievements by a recent alumnus, and the UTIA 2018 Meritorious Service Award to Ed Carter, executive director of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA). We commemorated all three's contributions in a video shown to Ag Day participants. Also on hand to celebrate were Jim and Judi Herbert who enjoyed spending time with Herbert College of Agriculture students, faculty, and staff, as well as our many alumni and friends present for the occasion.

A photo of the Herberts at Ag Day


Common Ground is published monthly by the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture. Send comments and suggestions to commonground@tennessee.edu. The University of Tennessee is an EEO/AA/Title VI/Title IX/Section 504/ADA/ADEA institution in the provision of its education and employment programs and services. All qualified applicants will receive equal consideration for employment and admission without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, pregnancy, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, physical or mental disability, genetic information, veteran status, and parental status.

Real. Life. Solutions.