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Common Ground

I hope that your summer is going well and that you will have the opportunity for some relaxation. Faculty and staff recognition is very important within UTIA. On August 7, we will hold our annual UTIA Awards and Promotions Luncheon. All individuals who received promotions this year will be recognized, as well as our many annual award winners. We can be proud that $71,750 will be provided to faculty and staff through the awards program. Congratulations to all the winners.

Go Vols,


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


UT Extension Financial Education Programs—
Real. Life. Solutions. for Tennessee Families

Everyday financial decisions can be momentous for Tennesseans when faced with multiple money challenges. Medical bills, credit card debt, and other expenses can quickly overwhelm individuals and families with low wage jobs or small fixed income retirements.

UT Extension financial education programs help Tennessee families make wise financial decisions. Our agents and specialists across the state help families make spending plans, emerge from bankruptcy with the skills to manage money successfully, find the resources to purchase their first home, and avoid being the victims of financial fraud.


In 2014, through participation in these financial education programs, Tennesseans estimated saving a total of $19,049,516 and reducing debt by a total of $7,155,021. Read more about UT FCS agent and specialist impacts in a column by UT Extension Assistant Dean Laura Stephenson.


Tyson CEO and Wife Honored for Global Ag Impacts



The National Agricultural Alumni and Development Association has recognized Donnie and Terry Smith for their gift to the Institute to endow the Smith Chair in International Sustainable Agriculture.

Donnie, CEO of Tyson Foods and a CASNR Animal Science alumnus, and Terry, who is also a UT graduate, were named the 2015 Ruby C. McSwain Outstanding Philanthropists of the Year for their commitment to tackle food instability. Smith Chair Tom Gill arrived on campus to begin work July 1.

"Their gift is an investment in our global future," said UTIA Chancellor Larry Arrington. "We share with the Smiths a concern and a vision about world population growth and the challenges of feeding the expected nine billion people by the year 2050." More ...


UT Gardens Eighth in List of Top University Gardens

The web resource Best Colleges, Top Schools and Degree Programs has ranked the UT Gardens eighth in its annual list of most amazing university botanical gardens and arboretums in the U.S. The Gardens made the top 50 last year, as well.

Best Colleges cited the Gardens' statewide presence and role as Tennessee's official botanical gardens. Also mentioned are its expansive collection of some 4,000 plant species, its role as a living laboratory to UT students and faculty, and its special mission in community outreach in hosting 100,000 visitors a year to its grounds in Knoxville, Jackson, and Crossville.

See the beauty of the UT Gardens, Knoxville, from the perspective of a recumbent bicyclist in this YouTube video.


UTIA Center to Train Middle Easterners on Biothreats



The U.S. State Department has awarded the Institute's Center for Agriculture and Food Security and Preparedness more than $1.36 million in grants for a one-year period starting in September to develop and conduct trainings for Egyptian and Pakistani officials.

The training will focus on health and safety in the community and provide benefits for the nonproliferation of biological weapons. The training will be delivered to participant groups that include regulators, first responders, law enforcement, industry, and animal health and public health officials. More ...


USDA and UTIA Partner on Rural Development

UTIA welcomed a delegation from the Tennessee Office of USDA Rural Development in late June. The occasion recognized the award of two USDA rural development grants to Institute faculty to assist with energy and business development.

Work made possible by the grants will have broad impacts in energy conservation and the state's economy served by the poultry industry and a large pulp mill. The mill provides employment and income opportunities for forest landowners, loggers, truckers, and others in a supply chain in more than 26 counties. More ...


Vet Med Doctor's Invention Arrives on the Market



Dr. Jacqui Whittemore, associate professor in Small Animal Clinical Sciences and a specialist in small animal medicine, has invented a lifelike canine mannikin to teach flexible upper gastrointestinal endoscopy to veterinarians. The market version of her invention, Michael Angelo (Mikey) K9 Endoscopy Mannikin, has just become available for purchase. More information on Mikey can be found at rescuecritters.com.


Agent Wins Top Award for Livestock Work
Nat'l Association of County Agricultural Agents honors Michael Barry

When it comes to helping farmers produce Tennessee's top agricultural commodity, Michael Barry is among the best in the nation. Just ask his peers—Extension agents from across the country.

Barry, formerly a UT Extension agent in DeKalb County and now UT Extension Director for Davidson County, received the Search for Excellence in Livestock Production Award from the National Association of County Agricultural Agents last week at the organization's conference in South Dakota. 2015 marks the hundredth annual meeting of this organization, which has thousands of members nationwide. Barry is one of just three agents to receive the livestock award. More ...


Harvesting Hope in a Victory Garden

Shelby County UT Extension agent Chris Cooper, host of Memphis WKNO-TV Family Plot television show, shares his thoughts on gardening and community involvement in the Collierville, Tennessee, Victory Garden.

Cooper is featured in an Our Stories video produced by UTIA Marketing and Communications. You can watch that video and many more at the Institute's YouTube Channel.



Marketing specialist Chuck Grigsby has joined the Center for Profitable Agriculture. Grigsby will work with county Extension agents and farmers across the state to evaluate and develop value-added enterprises. More ...



Tennessee AgrAbility and the MidSouth Farmers Cooperative adapted Whiteville, Tennessee, producer David Johnson's golf cart and tractor to better accommodate his disability. Now Johnson can continue to provide produce to local farmers markets. Learn about the AgrAbility program at its national website, www.agrability.org, and by contacting Tennessee coordinator Joetta T. White, 731-855-7656.



The 2015 Steak and Potatoes Field Day at the Plateau AgResearch and Education Center takes place August 4 in Crossville. The free event features tours and talks of interest to cattle producers, vegetable growers, and all sorts of landowners. More ...


In Nashville, Meet Kaye Avrit,
UT Extension Central Region Accounting Specialist



What do you do as an accounting specialist?

I work with regional and Central Region county staff in numerous areas. I process all regional staff and county director procurement cards, all county and regional invoices, all county and regional pay increases, along with entering all regional position changes in IRIS. I work closely with the regional director and HR Department in onboarding new employees. I also work to coordinate trainings for regional support staff.

How long have you been with UTIA?

I have been with UT Extension full time since June 2003.

What is the best part of your job?

I feel the best part of my job is helping others and the great coworkers I am blessed to be able to work with.


CVM Alums Star in VetsOnCall Video

Two alums of the UT College of Veterinary Medicine are among the latest veterinarians to be featured in the popular YouTube series VetsOnCall, sponsored by Zoetis, whose goal is to educate the public about modern farming and to promote the veterinary profession. Dr. Seth Krantz, class of 2010, and Dr. Sandra Fleming, 2009, were filmed on location at work at Tosh Farms in Henry, Tennessee, for the series. Their video can be viewed at VetsOnCall—Married pig vets, Partners in animal care.


UT Gardens, Crossville, Adds a KinderGarden



More than fifty children, along with parents and kindergarten teachers, joined UT Extension Master Gardeners and friends on June 23 for the grand opening of a very special garden and labor of love. Three years in the making, the KinderGarden within the Plateau Discovery Gardens at the AgResearch and Education Center in Crossville has been constructed for children ages three to seven years. Its official opening was commemorated with balloon art, tractor-churned ice cream, face painting, and other celebratory fun. Read more about this very special gem of the UT Gardens.

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.


Real. Life. Solutions.