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Common Ground

This year has flown by and been marked with many successes, some of which you'll read about in this last column of the year.

Whether it's Dr. Neal Stewart's election as an AAAS Fellow or our 4-H Livestock Skillathon team winning the national championship, we should be proud of those who represent UTIA so well.

As we come to the close of 2015 and head into this holiday season, I want to take this opportunity to thank each of you for your continued service to UTIA.

Candy and I wish you holidays filled with joy and special time with family and friends. Enjoy the break and see you in 2016. And Go Vols in the Outback Bowl!

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

Glove On!
Dean Experiences Adventurous Hands-on Learning

When CASNR Dean Caula Beyl joined animal science students for an artificial insemination learning experience at the East Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center–Little River Animal and Environmental Unit, she merely intended to watch. But that wasn't what happened. Instead she found herself joining the students in donning a shoulder-length glove.

Read an essay by Beyl about her experience that day and learn how a team of faculty, staff, and students with the Department of Animal Science teamed with staff of the Unit to create an unparalleled learning opportunity for CASNR students. More ...

2016 Field Days & Special Events Announced

AgResearch has released its schedule of 2016 field days. On tap are ten field days and five special events that offer farmers, ranchers, gardeners, and the general public a chance to see research findings, learn from university and industry experts, and network with peers.

Returning is the Organic Crops Field Tour, which provides an overview of production techniques and recommendations for organically grown fruits and vegetables. The event will take place in April at the East Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center's Organic Crops Unit. Also on the schedule are two biennial events: the Tobacco and Forage Production Field Day and the Milan No-Till Field Day. These field days occur in July of even-numbered years in Greeneville and Milan, respectively. More ...

4-H'ers are Nat'l Champs in Livestock Skillathon

Tennessee's 4-H Livestock Skillathon Team is tops in the nation—winning the overall First Place Award at the North American International Livestock Expo in Louisville, Kentucky, in November.

The team was coached by agent John Goddard with UT Extension Loudon County and director Alan Bruhin with UT Extension Sevier County. Seventy-four youth competed, with teams representing nineteen states.

The Tennessee team, composed of four youth from the agents' two counties, was selected based on members' Skillathon test scores at state beef, sheep, and swine shows. The national competition included nine different skills tests and five team activities, among them livestock breed identification, forage evaluation, and wool judging. One Tennessee 4-H'er was the second highest individual scorer in the competition, while the other members placed in the top twelve.

Goddard says he's grateful to a number of local sponsors who made the trip possible.

Plant Scientist Honored as AAAS Fellow

Neal Stewart, professor in the Department of Plant Sciences and the Institute's Ivan Racheff Chair of Excellence in Plant Molecular Genetics, has been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Election as an AAAS Fellow is a distinguished honor bestowed upon association members by their peers. Stewart was elected as a member of the Biological Sciences Section for his distinguished contributions to the field of plant molecular genetics, particularly bioenergy and biotechnology. More ...

Potential of Grape & Viticulture Industry Explored

As part of an effort to advance Tennessee's rural development, the UT Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Center for Profitable Agriculture are analyzing growth opportunities for the state's grape and viticulture industry. The USDA and Tennessee Farm Winegrowers Association are among the project sponsors.

TFWA President Don Collier says, "The wine and grape industry in North Carolina and Virginia has over a billion dollar impact on their state's economy.

"The TFWA feels this study is a critical step in making a billion dollar impact on the Tennessee economy in the rural farm areas of Tennessee where jobs and economic development are so desperately needed." More ...

Extension Horticulture Fund Aids CASNR Students

Staff members of UT Extension Franklin County gathered in November to establish an endowment honoring a man who made significant contributions to the horticultural industry in their community. Their generous gift in his memory will benefit CASNR students from the area.

Franklin County agent Ed Burns, standing at left in the photo, led the effort to fund the Manuel L. Statham Sr. Horticulture Endowment—a $25,000 gift to the UT Foundation primarily to support students who are studying fields related to horticulture.

Statham was a nursery producer who passed away from cancer in 2002. His life story was inspiring: born into impoverished conditions in Franklin County, but growing up to become a business leader in the local horticultural industry and establishing scholarship programs for area youth.

With donations from local nurseries, Burns started a plant sale in 2003 in honor of Statham, and the event eventually became part of the Winchester Dogwood Festival. This year the group reached its monetary goal and was able to make its gift to the UT Foundation.

"Through hard work and diligence, Manuel made a name for himself in the nursery industry," Burns says. "He was a true ambassador of the trade."

In Knoxville, Meet Joe Sarten, PE
AgResearch Engineer,
Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science

What do you do as engineer for AgResearch?

I provide engineering services for the ten AgResearch Centers around the state and occasionally for an on-campus project. I practice in agricultural, civil, electrical, environmental, and mechanical engineering fields.

Since starting this job, I have worked on over 240 projects involving more than $25 million in funds and have seen over 185 of them completed. Out of all of these, probably less than twenty have been repeats. This long list has included such things as irrigation systems, animal waste facilities, fescue and switchgrass research plots, building electrical and motor control systems, building HVAC systems, dairy facilities, and residential remodeling to name a few.

A few of the more "strange" projects I have been asked to do in this job include: 1) a set of plans to lay out a 680-foot by 260-foot UT 200th anniversary logo in a wheat field at the Milan AgResearch Center using only a measuring tape back in 1994; 2) plans and specifications to reconstruct the boyhood cabin of the late Governor Gordon Browning as an outside display at the West Tennessee Agriculture Museum; and 3) plans and specifications to convert two poultry houses at the Cherokee Unit of the East Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center into research buildings to rear predatory insects to fight the hemlock woolly adelgid in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and nearby national forests.

The most recent project I designed that has opened, which people may have heard about, is the joint UTIA-TDA-Tennessee Farmers Co-op Beef Heifer Development Center that launched this fall at the AgResearch and Education Center in Lewisburg.

How long have you been with UTIA?

I have worked at UTIA since July 1990, when I started as a research associate in Agricultural Engineering after completing my MS degree here in ag engineering, so I have been here a little over twenty-five years.

What is the best part of your job?

Getting to work on a wide variety of projects, being able to see them through from concept to completion, and just enough travel to get out of the office a few days each month. Also, getting to work with the staff and directors at the various research centers.

Any other thoughts?

Apparently some things cannot be kept secret here at UTIA, and I have been asked to briefly mention one of my hobbies, which is shape note singing, a.k.a. Old Harp Singing. This type singing does not involve a harp, but instead is an a capella style in which the tune is sung (using a seven-note scale: do, ra, mi, fa, sol, la, si) and then the poetry (words) is sung to the tune. The music is written so that each note of the scale has a distinct shape, allowing easy sight reading of the tune.

I am part of a loose-knit local group known as the East Tennessee Old Harp Singers. We sing out of a book titled, The New Harp of Columbia, published in 1867 in Nashville. Other shape note books exist (Christian Harmony and Sacred Harp to name a couple), but this one is unique to East Tennessee because the original edition titled The Harp of Columbia was published here in Knoxville in 1849. Both Harp of Columbia books contain several tunes composed by local authors.

This type of music is an American invention from the mid- to late 1700s and was intended to improve congregational singing in churches of the time. Being written in shapes, it allowed people who could not read or write to sing four-part harmony. The Old Harp Singers are trying to keep this style and tradition of music alive in East Tennessee. Harp singing goes back may generations in my family, as well. Come join us at an annual sing in Knox, Blount, Sevier, Greene, or McMinn counties. Some of our annual sings have been going on for more than one hundred years.

In Memoriam

Names link to obituaries.

Linda Howard, 69, retired administrative staff member in the Department of Agricultural Economics and the AgResearch Dean's Office with forty-two years of service to the Institute.

Tom Miles, 98, former professor and head, Dairying Department (1962-1972), and head, Department of Food Technology and Science (1972-1985).

UT Celebrates Service Dog at Neyland Stadium

During the final football game in Neyland Stadium each season, UT honors veterans, and, this year, one of them was a dog. Layka, a decorated war hero, lost her leg when she was shot four times while saving American lives in Afghanistan. Working with a Special Forces team, she was clearing a building when she was wounded. Even after being shot at point blank range, Layka attacked and subdued the shooter, protecting her handler and other members of the team. Her heroics landed her on the cover of National Geographic magazine. (Read the story of her cover portrait.)

After a freak accident at home in Oklahoma threatened the loss of her other front leg, Layka was flown by private jet to UTCVM for surgery and therapy at its world-renowned physical rehabilitation program, CARES (Canine Arthritis Rehabilitation Exercise and Sports Medicine) Center. Her team of doctors, veterinary technician, veterinary assistant, and honorary handlers joined her on the field. They say there is no stop in this dog! (Photo credit: Tennessee Athletics)


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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