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Common Ground

Fall is in the air and Ag Day 2015 is just around the corner. We hope you can join us on October 3 for this special event celebrating the Institute of Agriculture. The theme for this year will be "Magic Moments." See below to learn more about how you can join us in telling agriculture's story in a new way.

During Ag Day, we will be presenting the UTIA Horizon Award and the UTIA Meritorious Service Award to two very deserving people.

In addition, we'll be holding our 2015 Employee Appreciation Picnic on Friday, October 2, in the Brehm Animal Science Arena. Ag Day exhibits will be set up during the picnic. I hope all our Knox area employees will make plans to join us for this event.

Our fall field days are in full swing. The Cotton Tour was conducted by the West Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center with 115 participants. The East Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center hosted the Turf and Ornamental Field Day on September 10. We hosted a record 561 participants. The Turf and Ornamental Field Day also set records for social media with 81,958 accounts reached and 433,018 impressions.

Several months back I mentioned the plan for a parking garage on the UTIA campus. After conducting due diligence on the project, it was determined that the proposed location for the garage would shade the greenhouses. We will not proceed at this time.

We were fortunate to be able to host the oldest living alum of CASNR at the UT-Oklahoma football game. Mr. Ralph Alexander joined me, Tennessee Commissioner of Agriculture Julius Johnson, and UT Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy Cheek at the game (pictured). He graduated in 1938 in agricultural education and resides in Loudon County. Mr. Alexander will be 100 in October.

If you'd like to learn more about Mr. Alexander, read an article by CASNR student Will Freeman.

Go Vols,



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


Tennessee Creates Rural Development Task Force



Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd have announced the creation of a Rural Development Task Force that will bring resources together from a wide range of organizations to advance rural communities and economic development throughout Tennessee. Tim Cross, dean of UT Extension, is a member of the task force.

"Tennessee's rural communities are the heart of our state in so many ways, whether it's our main streets, longstanding companies, or as world-class tourist attractions, and we want to continue helping them thrive and grow," Haslam says.

"Tennessee is experiencing tremendous economic momentum, but unfortunately our success is not shared in many of our rural communities," Boyd says. "Many are still suffering and our state can only be great if all communities share in the success." The task force is conducting its first meeting this month. More ...


Telling the Agriculture Story in a New Way


Think about the special moments in life we love to capture and share. A wedding. Family dinner. Your child's first time at bat. A walk with your pet. Now imagine those moments without agriculture. It's impossible, right?

This is the heart of a new statewide campaign that will launch next month. You'll be hearing more about it in the coming weeks, and we hope you will be a part of this exciting new way of telling our story. In the meantime, get a sneak peek at this year's Ag Day and get ready to share your mAGic Moments!


Songs to Science—
How Writing One Helps the Other

Sometimes hearing concepts described from a different point of view can drive a point home and serve as an excellent learning moment.

AgResearch scientist Neal Stewart's recent article in Science compares his renewed activity (and challenges) in writing, recording, and selling country music songs to his faculty life of writing grant proposals and journal articles, conducting research, and training graduate students and postdocs.

Stewart has found he has learned lessons from his songwriting efforts that enhance his academic endeavors. Learn about them in a column by AgResearch Dean Bill Brown. More ...


#GrowTheHerd—Tennessee Beef Heifer Development Center to Open Soon

Administrators of the new Tennessee Beef Heifer Development Center are screening nominations for the first class of consignment heifers. They will select up to one hundred heifers to participate in the pilot program, which starts in October at the Dairy AgResearch and Education Center in Lewisburg.

The center is a partnership between UTIA, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, and Tennessee Farmers Co-op. Its goal is to enhance the repopulation of the state's beef herd by providing management protocols for the most costly aspect of beef cattle production. More ...


Ag Day and Faculty-Staff Appreciation Lunch



I hope you'll join us for Ag Day Saturday, October 3, in Brehm Animal Science Arena. The fun starts four hours before the Vols take on the Arkansas Razorbacks in Neyland Stadium. This year's theme is "Magic Moments." Guests will enjoy all of their favorite Ag Day festivities and also learn about a new statewide ag awareness campaign that will highlight the importance of agriculture in our everyday lives. For more information or to purchase tickets to the game, visit tiny.utk.edu/AgDay.

And don't miss our Faculty and Staff Appreciation Lunch. I'll host it with our Institute leaders from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Friday, October 2. Click here to RSVP online by Tuesday, September 22. For more information, email Trish Wagoner or call 865-974-7342. I hope to see you there.


Governor's Garden Wins International Award



How does your garden grow? With beauty and practicality if it's the Kitchen and Cutting Garden at Governor Bill and Crissy Haslam's residence. There a team of Davidson County Master Gardeners helps select, plant, and harvest the fruits and vegetables in the garden, many bound for the Haslams' table.

The big news is the Tennessee Residence Garden placed first in the 2015 International Master Gardener Association Search for Excellence recognition program in the category of Best Demonstration Garden.

Watch a video about the garden produced by Chuck Denney of UTIA Marketing and Communications.


UT Arboretum Auditorium Debuts

After nearly a year of construction, the new auditorium at the UT Arboretum in Oak Ridge is ready for its debut.

Nestled among the pastoral landscapes of the Arboretum, the new auditorium boasts nearly 2,000 square feet of open floor space. Its rustic setting is perfect for meetings, wedding receptions, retreats, and educational programs. More ...


Center to Develop Nat'l Training for Produce Safety
Shifting from Response to Prevention

The Center for Agriculture and Food Security and Preparedness (CAFSP) at UTIA's College of Veterinary Medicine has received a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The Center will play a key role in supporting implementation of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) signed into law in 2011.

Over the next year, CAFSP, under the direction of Dr. Sharon Thompson, will develop a food safety training program for the nation's food inspectors to support inspections of produce farms to evaluate the adoption of FSMA requirements as they are implemented. FSMA requirements are intended to reduce the occurrence of foodborne outbreaks.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 48 million people (1 in 6 Americans) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die each year from foodborne illnesses. More ...


A Fond Farewell for an Exceptional Leader

In August, beloved Tennessee 4-H Youth Development leader Steve Sutton retired from UTIA.

During his forty-two year career with UT Extension, Sutton touched thousands of lives from Mountain City to Memphis and everywhere between.

Read comments from his colleagues on their thoughts of the impacts he had on 4-H and the youth it serves. More ...


Brewing a Big Idea



Earlier this month, faculty and students in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, along with a vice chancellor and dean, gathered to sample free trade coffee from one of the department's own. Alumnus Blake Thomas founded Tiny House Coffee after a stint in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua.

"Blake's work highlights two focus areas for the university and the department: entrepreneurship and the pursuit of international opportunities," says Thomas's former major professor Chris Clark.

"His work to improve the lives of others through Peace Corps service and now his efforts to improve the market opportunities for smallholder coffee growers in Nicaragua are a source of pride for the department and all who have worked with Blake." More ...




Assistant Professor Hem Bhandari and Professor and Racheff Chair Neal Stewart of the Department of Plant Sciences are hosting the Switchgrass, Prairie and Native Grass International Conference September 30 through October 2 in Knoxville.

The conference will bring together scientists and students to discuss state-of-the-art research in switchgrass and other grass species of tallgrass prairie and savannah habitat spanning agronomy, physiology, ecology, soil science, pathology, entomology, genetics, genomics, and molecular biology.

"After two prior switchgrass meetings held in Oklahoma and Wisconsin, we expect eighty researchers at 'Switchgrass III' to bring their expertise to Knoxville, the epicenter of switchgrass research," Stewart says.


Heritage the Focus of West Tenn Special Events

Travel to the Milan and Ames Plantation AgResearch and Education Centers in West Tennessee for two very special events that celebrate the region and Tennessee's rural heritage.

On Saturday, October 10, more than 150 folk artists and musicians will recreate rural Tennessee from years gone by at the eighteenth annual Heritage Festival. Come to the Ames Plantation in Grand Junction to explore the history, culture, art, and traditions of the area. More ...

If you're looking for a family outing that's unique, educational, and also fun, mark your calendars for Saturday, October 17. That's the day of the seventeenth annual Fall Folklore Jamboree in Milan.

The all-day event takes visitors back to a time of log cabins, spinning wheels, and old-fashioned bluegrass pickers playing on the porch. With more than one hundred friendly folk artists demonstrating traditional skills, plus a long lineup of award-winning gospel and bluegrass bands, visitors can truly get a glimpse of nineteenth century life. More ...


Field Day Turns Pumpkins into Profits
Pumpkin Display Canceled, but Classes Continue

Pumpkin producers looking to boost their businesses or pump up production should make plans to attend the eighth annual Pumpkin Field Day hosted by UTIA in Jackson. The field day begins at 11:00 a.m. CDT on Thursday, September 24, at the West Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center. Classes conclude at 4:30 p.m.

While the Center's Pumpkin Display is typically unveiled on that day, due to limited resources, there will not be a display in 2015. However, Pumpkin Field Day visitors can see the newest and best varieties for the pumpkin patch; learn about insect, disease, and weed control; and pick up creative fall agritourism ideas. More ...


Extension Agent Elected Chair
of Exempt Staff Council

Loudon County Extension agent John Goddard (standing far right) has been elected chair of the UT Exempt Staff Council. The council is the counterpart to the Faculty Senate and Employee Relations Councils. It is a body elected by peers to represent nearly 2,200 exempt administrative and professional staff at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, area.

The council provides a forum for discussing issues and exchanging ideas relevant to exempt staff and provides a mechanism for communicating with other representative bodies and administrators.

Membership includes elected representatives from each of the vice president areas, the Office of the Provost, and any additional units with Knoxville-area staff exempt personnel. As ESC chair, Goddard will also serve on the UT President's Employee Relations Advisory Board.

Warren County Extension agent Heath Nokes, seated third from right, was recently elected to represent Middle Tennessee Extension staff.


I AM UTIA—
In Knoxville, Meet Leslie Wereszczak
Senior Veterinary Technician II



What do you do as a licensed veterinary technician with the Emergency Critical Care service at the UT Veterinary Medical Center?

As the supervising technician of our Small Animal ICU and ER, I oversee the daily function of this amazing area of our hospital, where we care for our clients' most critically ill or injured pets.

How long have you been with UTIA?

Seventeen full-time years, five part-time (approximately 154 dog years).

What is the best part of your job?

I have to say the best part of my job is that no two days are the same, and that each and every day there is an opportunity to learn something new. I have the opportunity to work with some of the most talented people in veterinary medicine who show a passion and commitment to their patients that is unsurpassed.

Any other thoughts?

Every pet has a story. Yes, some of those stories are sad and some are miraculous. To be a part of their story, well, that's just a privilege.


In Memoriam

Names link to obituaries.

Mary Ruch Cates, 77, former secretary, UT Extension Franklin County. Elna Spears, retired Extension leader, recalls her as "a very nice, very positive, and hard working. She was a family woman which was evident in her leaving Extension to operate a store alongside her husband for forty-plus years."

Yvonne Stahl, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension assistant, CDC Grant evaluation manager. Stahl worked with campus faculty and agents and staff in the Western Region to support the CDC grant goals in Humphries, Lauderdale, Haywood, and Lake Counties.

Tom Whatley, 97, retired associate dean of AgResearch and former head of the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. Whatley worked for UTIA for forty years. His achievements are celebrated with the Institute's annual Whatley Young Scientist Award.


UT Gardens Going to the Dogs
Halloween Event for Pet Owners and Their Dogs



UT Gardens, Knoxville, and the UT College of Veterinary Medicine are hosting the second annual Howl-O-Ween Pooch Parade and Pet Expo. The event caters to dogs and dog lovers and will be held from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m., Sunday, October 25, in the Gardens on the agricultural campus.

Enjoy a costumed pet parade emceed by Erin Donovan with Visit Knoxville. Judges include Deb DiPietro, wife of UT President Joe DiPietro, Knoxville News Sentinel reporter Amy McRary, and Associate Dean Bob DeNovo of the College of Veterinary Medicine. The event also includes dog rescue groups, pet businesses, educational booths, children's activities, and canine demonstrations. Several food trucks will be on hand for people wanting to purchase food.

The event is free. Parade preregistration is $8 per dog or $13 for two or more. Registration the day of the event begins at 1:00 p.m. and is $10 per dog or $15 for two or more. Costume categories include Bad to the Bone (scariest), Funny Bone (funniest), Glamour Pooch (prettiest), Pup Culture (pop culture/character), and Bone-a-fido (judges' choice).

Visit tiny.utk.edu/howloween for more information or to preregister.

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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