Award Goes to UT Plateau AgResearch and Education Center

2016 Friend of Farming Award

The University of Tennessee Plateau AgResearch and Education Center has been named the 2016 Friend of Agriculture by the Cumberland County Farm Bureau. Pictured
left to right are Dr. Robert Freeland, retired Superintendent; Al Wilson, Cumberland County Farm Bureau President; Dr. Bill Brown, Dean of UT AgResearch; Walt Hitch, Plateau AgResearch and Education Center Director; and Roger Thackston, Cumberland County Farm Bureau Vice President. Photo courtesy the Cumberland County Farm Bureau. Download image.

CROSSVILLE, Tenn. – The Cumberland County Farm Bureau has named the University of Tennessee Plateau AgResearch and Education Center as its 2016 Friend of Agriculture. Bill Brown, dean of UT AgResearch, was on hand July 23 at the organization’s annual meeting and picnic to accept the award.
Also recognized were the Center’s current director Walt Hitch and Dr. Robert Freeland, retired superintendent of the Plateau Agricultural Experiment Station, which was the facility’s name during his tenure.

Al Wilson and Roger Thackston, Cumberland County Farm Bureau President and Vice President, respectively, recognized the Plateau Center’s service to the county and state’s agricultural industry. Thackston read a short history of the center before presenting the award. His essay included recognition that $30,000 in funding for the Center was appropriated by the Tennessee General Assembly in 1943 and Cumberland County purchased 588 acres of what was then known as the Bore Farm for the express purpose of selling it to UT. The county paid $10,000, and sold it to UT for $1.
Some would call that quite a loss, but Hitch says the county made a wise investment. “Through the years, the Center has provided many returns to the county as an employer along with dollars spent in the local community. More important to the agriculture industry are the Center’s research contributions, which have helped producers and landowners solve production and management problems both locally and across the state and region.”

Hitch added that the relatively recent development of the Center’s Discovery Gardens is making aesthetic contributions to the community in terms of a beautiful place to visit as well as in helping to solve landscape issues and nursery production issues some of which are unique to the Cumberland Plateau. The recent addition of the KinderGarden has expanded the Center’s role to introduce agriculture and gardening to the very young.

Since the original purchase of the Center’s land, UT has added a 1380-acre tract called the Grassland unit, which is located south of Tansi. It was once known as the Garwood Farm and part of the Homesteads. Acreage was also added around the former POW Camp, now the Clyde York 4-H Training Center, bringing the total acreage of the Plateau AgResearch Center to 2100 acres.

“Since its beginning, the Plateau Experiment Station has researched and studied just about every fruit and vegetable you can think of and grow.  Row crops and small grains, soil fertility, pesticide trials, forestry, hay and pastures and even hemp,” recited Thackston. “Beef cattle, swine and sheep have been a strong part of research efforts at the station since its beginning. In recent years, due to consumer interests, ornamental research has dug its way into the work done at the experiment station.”

“One area we need to single out is research done with snap beans. The Plateau Station has been a national leader in snap bean variety trials, pests and diseases, soil fertility and mechanical harvesting. Through their efforts they help grow snap bean production in Cumberland and surrounding counties into a multimillion dollar industry,” Thackston added.

The Plateau AgResearch and Education Center hosts numerous events and activities for farmers and the community, including the recent Steak and Potatoes Field Day and the upcoming Fall Gardeners Festival, scheduled for August 30. Both events attract hundreds of visitors, and this year the Fall Garden Festival, co-hosted by the Cumberland County Master Gardeners and UT Extension’s Cumberland County Office, is expected to draw nearly 1,000 visitors to the Center’s Discovery Gardens. The site is one of three UT Gardens sites across the state.

Thackston’s essay also pointed out the Center’s commitment to the future of agriculture and to agricultural education. “This year will be our 24th Bill Wheeler "Ag In The Classroom" program for all third grade students in Cumberland County. The Plateau Ag Research and Education Center has hosted us, the students and teachers each year since it was started. We feel it is the most successful AITC program in the state and envied by all other county Farm Bureaus across Tennessee. It would not be possible without the help and cooperation of the Research and Education Center,” he wrote.

“For 73 years the Plateau Experiment Station has been a good neighbor to Cumberland County and all 22 Plateau counties. They have helped to make your farms and gardens more productive and profitable through their research and education,” Thackston proclaimed. ““Because the Plateau Ag Research and Education Center has and continues to play a significant role in our county's history, our farms and our lives, the "Friend of Agriculture" is presented to them for 2016.”

In accepting the honor on behalf of UT and the Plateau Center, Brown paid homage to the years of dedicated service of both Freeland and Hitch. The two have managed the facility for a combined total of 44 years.

Through its mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture (UTIA) touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions.



Walt Hitch, University of Tennessee Plateau AgResearch and Education Center,


See Roger Thackston's short 2016 Cumberland County Friend of Agriculture essay and award announcement