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Common Ground


Now that fall has finally arrived, it seems that a season of change is truly upon us. We've turned back our clocks, elected a new president, and started making plans for 2017 while we also prepare summaries of accomplishments and successes from 2016.

Our administrative team has just concluded a series of meetings with our Regional Advisory Council members held in East, Middle, and West Tennessee. Our Advisory Council members include stakeholders representing a wide range of interests, and the members include farmers, veterinarians, youth educators, state agency leaders, family and consumer representatives, and community leaders.

At the Regional Advisory Council meetings, we provided an update on UTIA accomplishments, successes, and needs, and we invited the council members to provide input and feedback about our draft UTIA priorities, following up on the input they provided in the initial priorities survey. Their feedback indicated that the priorities we've discussed are critically important to the state. They identified ways in which the priorities can be described to ensure they remain relevant and understandable among our audiences and partners. They also committed to working with us to carry out these priorities in the coming years.

Our Institute benefits from the many partnerships and collaborative relationships we've developed with stakeholders across the state, and these Regional Advisory Council meetings ensure that we stay in touch with key leaders to effectively carry out our land-grant mission. I wish each of you could be present to hear the many positive comments that council members share about the positive impacts UTIA faculty and staff have that enhance Tennesseans' lives. Of course, we can always improve and council members are not afraid to share critical feedback as well. This creates great opportunities to think about possible changes to benefit those we serve.

Thanks for the work that you do every day to advance the Institute, the university, and the state.

Go Vols,



UT Extension Posts Drought Resources



It's dry. Producers throughout the state are feeling the effects of an uncommonly hot, dry autumn. Many are concerned for the health and welfare of their livestock, and concern is deepening regarding wildfires.

To help the state's farmers, rural communities, and families deal with the ongoing situation, UT Extension has posted drought resources online. The site links to webinars, articles, publications, and other information that can help people make informed decisions on how to deal with extended dry conditions.

"We intend for this website to be a 'living document,'" says Robert Burns, associate dean of UT Extension who works with agricultural, natural resource, and community economic development issues. "It will be continually added to and updated with information from UT Extension specialists and other credible sources."

The site includes dates, locations, and times for statewide producer webinars where drought management techniques will be presented. While some webinars have already occurred, recordings of all the webinars are being posted for online viewing.


From Extension Assistant Dean & Head Richard Clark—

A Season of Giving and Saying Thanks

One of the hallmarks of 4-H is teaching young people the importance of giving back to their community. 4-H Service Learning provides hands-on opportunities for youth and adults to be blessed with the inner satisfaction that comes from knowing they made a difference. It also reinforces the concept that the world does not revolve around "me," but is better focused on serving the larger community.

In 2015-16, these projects accounted for 1,914,046 hours of service by Tennessee 4-H members, with a $40,041,842 impact on the state of Tennessee. It goes to show that you don't have to be an adult to make a huge difference in communities and in an individual's life.

Learn about three current 4-H service learning projects that aim to make the holidays brighter for youth and adults, here in Tennessee and around the world. More ... (A PDF of this article and other content from this issue is available.)


Task Force Releases Plan to Strengthen
Rural Communities

The Governor's Rural Task Force has released a strategic plan to advance rural communities and economic development throughout Tennessee.

"Despite the unprecedented growth occurring in our state, many of Tennessee's rural areas are not experiencing the same prosperity as urban areas," says Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd.

"This strategic plan provides a potential menu of options to help transform and grow our rural communities."

"Much more work must be done, but this report lays a solid foundation for the future," says Tennessee Department of Agriculture Commissioner Jai Templeton. "I am grateful for the renewed interest in growing Tennessee's rural communities and the recognition of the importance of agriculture. When our small towns and countryside thrive, we all benefit."

The Task Force's recommendations focus on capacity building and placemaking. More ...



Know someone wanting to start a food business to sell pickles or other canned goods like salsas and chow-chows? If so, UT Extension is making it easier to get the required training they need. Faith Critzer, a food safety specialist with UT Extension, and Nathan Miller, an Extension assistant, have converted their in-person workshop, "Better Process Control School," to an online format to better serve clients in Tennessee. More ...



The UT Plateau AgResearch and Education Center will host its annual fall sale of cattle this Friday at 10:00 a.m. CST. The sale will feature open and bred cows from the Center's herd, all of which are registered Angus. Bred Angus heifers will also be on sale. Minimum bids per head will be required. For more information, including a list of the cattle to be sold, or to make arrangements to preview sale stock, contact the Plateau AgResearch Center at 931-484-0034 or email Jennifer Burns.



UT Extension food safety specialist Faith Critzer will lead a new multistate research and outreach project to help fruit and vegetable growers lower the risks their water sources might pose to the safety of their produce. UT vegetable production specialist Annette Wszelaki and biosystems engineering professor John Buchanan join Critzer on the project.
More ...


Our Superstars!



Three deans, two AgResearch scientists and one research associate, one Extension county director, one Extension specialist, and three CASNR graduate students have all received nationally and regionally important awards. That's a lot of honors!

Read about the awards and our UTIA members' achievements that merited them. More ...


Big Orange Give Needs You!

Last year YOU raised more than $1 million for UT. University colleges, departments, student projects, and more all benefited from your generosity and help sharing the message. Help us do it again! This year, UT has been given a challenge. If the university raises $500,000 in just five days, a donor will contribute another $500,000! Not everyone can make an individual gift of that magnitude, but together our passionate alumni and donors can! Help UT raise $1 million!

You can help 1) by donating a small amount, 2) sharing the message on social media (be sure to include the links), and 3) email or talk to individuals who you know are passionate about supporting real-life solutions at UTIA. This is a great time to make your gift count!

Click the images below to learn more about campaigns for these UTIA units.

Gifts to VOLstarter projects will also help the Big Orange Give goals this week. We have several:

UTCVM Anesthesia Crew—$1,700

Vets for Pets of Homeless Owners—$2,500

Wildlife Medicine Study Abroad—$2,000


Seeing the Forest through the Trees



Autumn adorns trees with richly hued leaves and clusters of nuts or other presentations of seeds for the future of tree species. Meg Staton, a research scientist with a penchant for big data, looks at these trees and sees thousands upon thousands of data points to be compiled for analyses.

Staton is an assistant professor of bioinformatics with the UT Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, and she is also a coprincipal investigator in a three-year, $3 million grant by the National Science Foundation to develop a user-friendly interface that will help forest scientists everywhere record and share their genomic data for various tree species. More ...


Join the Iron Dog Race on Dec. 3 & Aid Animal Care

The UT College of Veterinary Medicine is hosting the third annual Iron Dog 5K Race Saturday, December 3. The purpose of the race is to raise awareness about the emergency and critical care needs of small and exotic animals.

Race day registration and packet pickup is between 7:00-8:30 a.m. with the 5K beginning at 9:00 a.m. The cost to register is $25 per participant. Register here.

Proceeds will support the care of critically ill dogs, cats, and exotic animals that are treated at the UT Veterinary Medical Center. The Center's Emergency and Critical Care service works with veterinarians throughout Knoxville and the surrounding area to help manage the needs of small and exotic animals. More information ...


Students Document 'Amazon of North America'



It was a journey covering more than 1,000 miles through four states, all along the Tennessee River. UT Landscape Design and Architecture students led by assistant professor Brad Collett of the Department of Plant Sciences mapped and followed the river to learn about its impact on the region. Watch a UTIA Marketing and Communications video about the project.


In Memoriam

Conrad Reinhardt was a former director of UT Extension Communications. Reinhardt served as a communications professor at UT for thirty years and, after retirement, was able to pursue his passion for photography full time. (Name links to memorial.)



Co-parenting throughout the Holidays—The holiday season is often a time full of joy, but for some can bring stresses all of its own. Heather Wallace, UT Extension specialist in family and consumer sciences, offers tips to assist separated parents navigate this time of year. More ...



All about the Bugs—On October 27, members of the Institute and Knoxville community sampled buggy tacos, chili, brownies, and other delights. Watch a UTIA Marketing and Communications video about the fun and serious purpose behind Buggy Buffet, the highly popular feast presented each year by the UT Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology and students in a First Year Studies class titled "A Bug's Life."



How to Keep Your House Healthy for Yourself and Your Children—Children are at greater risk from environmental hazards than adults. Learn eight practices you can do to ensure your home is healthy and safe, from Martha Keel, professor and environmental health and housing specialist with UT Extension. More ...


On Schedule to Keep Thanksgiving Food Safe



Hosting Thanksgiving can be a logistical challenge that starts with planning what to cook and ends with figuring out what to do with all of those leftovers. Janie Burney, a food safety specialist with UT Extension, recommends that you streamline your Thanksgiving planning to ensure you have a fun and food-safe holiday. View a schedule that can assist you in planning for a food-safe holiday.

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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 without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, pregnancy, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, physical or mental disability, or covered veteran status.



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