UTIA AgResearch Announces Two New Associate Deans & Directors: Drs. Tim Rials and David White

By Bill Brown, Dean, UT AgResearch

We are very pleased to announce that Drs. David White and Tim Rials have accepted the positions of Associate Dean for Research and Associate Director of the Tennessee Agricultural Experiment Station (UT AgResearch). Drs. Rials and White bring extensive experience and success in leading research programs, both as individuals and in team environments. They have proven success in working with federal, state, and local agencies, private companies, and clientele groups in highly competitive environments, always with a focus on meeting the needs of our clientele.

Dr. White comes to UTIA most recently from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) where he served as Chief Science Officer & Research Director, Office of Foods & Veterinary Medicine. Prior to that, Dave was a faculty member at North Dakota State University where his program focused on veterinary and microbiological sciences. He has extensive experience with federal agencies and has provided input and leadership to the development of competitive grant programs and strategic priorities across multiple federal agencies. Dave begins his new role mid to late August.

Dr. Rials moves to the AgResearch office from the Center for Renewable Carbon (CRC) where he has served as director since coming to UTIA in 2001, first as director of the Tennessee Forest Products Center then as director of the CRC with the shift in focus and name change in 2010. Tim has successfully led many highly competitive, team-based awards from the USDA/NIFA, DOE, DOT, and FAA and has extensive experience working with private partners. Tim begins his new role on August 1.

We believe that UTIA programs are poised to move to an even greater level in terms of developing solutions to problems and challenges facing our stakeholders. Due to UTIA’s structure and funding model, we are in an excellent position to address these grand challenges through trans-disciplinary approaches that span departments and functions. Tim and Dave will work across departments, academic programs, research, extension, veterinary medicine, UT Knoxville, and other institutions to facilitate responses to federal, state, and local opportunities. They will seek new partnerships with private industry, continue our strong commitment to commodity groups, and agricultural and natural resource producers, and build a stronger relationship with Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Please welcome Dave to UTIA and Tim to his new role. Also, please reach out to them in cases where you believe they can provide assistance to your program.

New Head for Department of Entomology & Plant Pathology

On June 30, Deans Tim Cross, Bill Brown, and Caula Beyl announced the appointment of DeWayne Shoemaker https://www.ars.usda.gov/pandp/people/people.htm?personid=39379 as the new department head for the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology.

Shoemaker joins UTIA after serving as a successful research scientist with USDA-ARS at the Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology in Gainesville, Florida. He previously served as a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and at Western Michigan University. He holds BS and PhD degrees in entomology from the University of Georgia.

Shoemaker will begin work on August 15. Please join with us in welcoming him to the Institute and in thanking Karen Vail for the excellent leadership she has provided as interim head.

China grape production.jpg
UT travel to China, June 2016
By Tom Gill, Director, UTIA International Programs, & Smith Chair in International Sustainable Agriculture

UTIA led a ten-person trip to China, June 18-25, 2016. The team visited and built connections with nine institutions during a one-week visit to Beijing, Shenyang, and Nanjing, China. The trip had two goals. The first was to further build the UT China Scholars Program. We visited our three Chinese partner institutions (China Agricultural University, Nanjing University, and the Institute of Applied Ecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shenyang) and interviewed twenty potential students for entrance into UT’s China Scholars Program. This program, co-funded by the China Scholarship Council, brings ten students per year from China to study at the PhD level in any major related to energy and the environment. UT is currently training nineteen students under this program in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and in colleges on the UT Knoxville campus. We also took time to visit the China Scholarship Council itself, in Beijing, to discuss progress of the program and the potential for continuation of the program.

The second goal was to build partnerships around the land-grant mission of research, teaching, and extension. We formalized our collaborations with Shenyang Agricultural University (SYAU) in the official signing ceremony of an MOU between UT and SYAU, together with the President of SYAU. We also visited with Nanjing Agricultural University, the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture, the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, and the Chinese Academy of Forestry. One stop at Nanjing Agricultural University was at the institution's grape production facility (pictured), where our scientists learned about their research underway. Five UTIA faculty each gave talks at five institutions to extend teaching and research collaborations with Chinese partners.

As always, our Chinese partners were excellent hosts and we were treated to delicious lunches and banquet dinners in addition to campus tours at partner universities. We expect to return the favor soon as we anticipate visits to UT this fall from the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture, the Secretary General of the China Scholarship Council, and the leadership of Southwest Forestry University.

The team consisted of nine UTIA faculty (including three administrators) and one UT Knoxville faculty member.

Bill Brown, Dean, AgResearch, UTIA John Stier, Associate Dean, CASNR, UTIA Tom Gill, Director, International Programs, UTIA Jie Zhuang, Research Professor, Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science, UTIA Sean Schaeffer, Assistant Professor, Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science, UTIA Chris Clark, Professor, Agricultural and Resource Economics, UTIA Gina Pighetti, Associate Professor, Animal Science, UTIA Juan Luis Jurat-Fuentes, Associate Professor, Entomology and Plant Pathology, UTIA Siqun Wang, Professor, Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, UTIA Jindong Tan, Professor, Mechanical Engineering, UT Knoxville

FCS Using Farmers Markets to Encourage Healthy Food Choices
By UT Extension Associate Dean Laura Stephenson

Promote, educate, and support healthy Tennessee food choices…is a focus of Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) Extension programs across the state. Local FCS agents and program assistants are using a three-pronged approach to encourage Tennesseans to eat healthy with educational classes, promotional campaigns, and work with local partners to design environments that support healthy choices. Farmers’ Market Fresh is a new program that incorporates all three elements to encourage citizens to make healthy food choices, including consuming fruits and vegetables. The program is particularly focused on limited-resource families.

UT Extension is partnering with producers through local farmers markets to provide access and encourage purchase and consumption of healthy food choices. Farmers markets that accept SNAP EBT benefits give limited resource families greater access to fresh Tennessee foods. While more and more farmers markets are accepting SNAP/EBT benefits, many limited-resource families remain unaware of this resource. As part of this program, local farmers markets accepting SNAP/EBT benefits are promoted to limited-resource families through social media posts, newspaper articles, signage, and promotional displays.

In Farmers’ Market Fresh, the farmers market is the classroom! FCS agents, program assistants and/or volunteers use interactive and hands-on

educational methods such as children’s challenge activities (see cards the children use at right) and food demonstrations. Also built into the program are educational tools including nutrient charts, food models, recipe cards, and factsheets to teach families how to select, prepare, and store their food purchases. Farmers’ Market Fresh is designed around a series of on-site food demonstrations utilizing fruits and vegetables common to Tennessee farmers markets such as fresh tomato bruschetta and summer squash with pasta. After attending the food demonstrations, participants will have a collection of recipes fresh from the farmers market.

Support Healthy Choices
UT Extension agents work closely with producers, farmers market managers, and local policymakers to promote access to healthy food choices. Agents worked with local partners to assess the potential barriers to access for seniors, limited-resource audiences, and those with disabilities to shop at farmers markets. In Knox County there was a realization that the bus routes were passing close to the local farmers market, but the nearest stop is in the adjacent shopping center – inconvenient for carrying purchases home and decreasing limited resource families’ opportunity to visit the market. Heather Kyle-Harmon, FCS agent, shared, “We worked with the Knox County Health Department to submit a grant to provide transportation from the area senior citizen centers to the market. We anticipate greater access to those who had never been able to visit the market before.”

The project was funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP and under an agreement with this State of Tennessee. 2015 Farmers’ Market Fresh program was piloted in twelve counties. Of the counties who participated there were 121 food demonstrations conducted, 211 social media posts, 415 children’s challenge participants, 325,025 indirect contacts, and 29,071 direct contacts. There was a $3,000 increase in SNAP redemption across five markets reporting. Of participants who responded 19 percent increased consumption of locally grown vegetables, and 11 percent increased consumption of locally grown fruits. In 2016, 39 farmers’ markets will be participating in Farmers’ Market Fresh.

Learn How to Start a Company—by Starting a Company!

Do you have an idea for starting a business but just don’t know where to begin? Or have you ever wanted to be involved in a start-up but didn’t have an idea that you thought would work? If so, the upcoming Ag 3-Day Startup (Ag 3DS) boot camp is for you.

This intensive, 3-day event will be held starting at 4 p.m. on Friday afternoon, September 30, through 6 p.m., Sunday, October 2, on the Institute campus in Knoxville. Any UT student, faculty, or staff member is welcome to apply for the free program. A website to accept applications will be up by mid-August. Information on how to apply will be posted on both AgResearch and CASNR website home pages in early August.

The goal of Ag 3DS is to start between five and seven new ag-based companies, which can range anywhere from hardware to software to services that help solve the needs of the agriculture industry. These can include solutions for animal health, plant-based products, food technologies, agricultural diagnostics, farms, aquaculture, natural products, safety or production improvements, natural resource conservation, and bioenergy.

The boot camp is designed to teach you how to start a company by actually starting a company. Participants will generate ideas, form teams, and bring ideas to fruition. They will talk to customers, explore business models, begin building prototypes, and present their ideas to professional investors, all within a timespan of fifty hours!

Students may approach faculty to discuss using this program as a one-hour independent study credit. For more information on the content of the program, please contact Joy Fisher at joy.fisher@utk.edu.

Ag3DS is brought to you by AgResearch, the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Ag Launch, and the UT Federal Credit Union.

Spotlight on the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics
Delton Gerloff, Department Head

The University of Tennessee Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics will soon celebrate its 100th birthday, marking its inception as a department in 1919. While we are proud of our history and accomplishments, we are also committed to provide teaching, research, and Extension programs that are relevant and effective for today’s world.

Our teaching program is in the midst of significant change. Curriculum changes, inspired by faculty strategic planning, will include new courses and class content to better prepare our graduates for careers. Our two majors—Food and Agricultural Business, and Natural Resource and Environmental Economics—consistently place our students among the highest beginning salaries for new graduates. In addition to coursework, our students have many opportunities for experiential learning, which is practical application of what is learned in the classroom. Such opportunities include the undergraduate NAMA (National Agri-Marketing Association) team that competes annually at the national NAMA convention, as well as the Farm Credit Scholars program, which is a combination of scholarship, internship, and experiential learning opportunities. While our undergraduate student numbers have held steady for several years, between 75 and 85, donor gifts have allowed us to present undergraduate scholarships to each incoming freshman for the past two years. Going forward, with the additional financial support, we expect the number of undergraduates to increase.

Departmental research includes topics in marketing, natural resources, environmental and production economics, along with agricultural policy, land use, bioenergy, finance, and consumer issues. In 2015, the 11.6 research FTE in the department generated forty-three refereed journal articles, thirty-five scientific presentations with abstracts, and more than $1.5 million in research grant awards. Currently, our faculty mentor twenty-one MS and four PhD graduate students.

Extension educational programs address issues in livestock and grain marketing, farm and financial management, rural agribusiness, and fruit and vegetable marketing. Recently, our Extension specialists were heavily involved in the farm bill educational program, farmers markets programs, and the Tennessee wine and grape industry. Our specialists also support the MANAGE program by providing educational tools and information to area farm management specialists.

Currently, the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics is home to eighteen faculty members and thirteen professional and support staff. We are excited about the future and look forward to our second 100 years!

Images, from top left:
1. Students enrolled in the departments' graduate programs.
2. One of the department's undergraduate classes taught by longtime faculty member Bill Park. The class is in the Institute's Plant Biotechnology Building.
3. Department head Delton Gerloff talking with first-year students at an ice cream social hosted in their honor.
4. The 2015 NAMA team.