Agriculture and Alumni Shine at Ag Day

Featured Photo: Entomology professor Jerome Grant (left in white T-shirt) encourages a contestant while officiating the Cricket Spittin’ Contest at UTIA’s annual Ag Day. Onlookers included other contestants, students and friends of UTIA, including U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue (right).

“Our future’s so bright” was the theme of UTIA’s annual Ag Day celebration. More than 700 friends and supporters gathered before kickoff of the Tennessee-Georgia football game to celebrate agriculture and honor three distinguished alumni.

Jerry Ray (Knoxville ’76) was recognized as the UT Extension Tennessee Farmer of the Year. Ray farms 1,900 acres in Moore County and raises corn, wheat, soybeans, forage and 1,400 head of cattle. UTIA’s Meritorious Service Award was presented to Ruth Henderson-McQueen (Knoxville ’73, ’75). McQueen served nearly 30 years with UT Extension, developing international programming, serving with 4-H Roundup and Congress as well as training agents. She remains a 4-H volunteer. The institute also recognized Seiche Genger, a 2014 graduate of the College of Veterinary Medicine, with the 2019 Horizon Award. Genger is the East Asia Technical Manager for Hy-Line International, a company that raises egg-laying chickens. She is moving to Thailand to supervise operations throughout Asia and Australia in food safety and veterinary care.

Ag Day also included visits from American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, who took time to visit exhibits and chat with students about their career plans.


Plant Sciences Sizzles with Plant Drop and Fresh Electric Farm

Students gave away 1,000 coleus plants in two minutes during a “plant drop” on the UT Knoxville Pedestrian Walkway.
Photo by T. Salvador

In October, students in the plant sciences class “Plants that Changed the World” gave away 1,000 potted coleus plants in two minutes on the UT Knoxville pedestrian walkway. The students’ instructor, Andy Pulte (Knoxville ’08, ’16), thought the chaotic “plant drop” would be an exciting way to get the word out about the benefit of plants. The result? One thousand plants actively remind 1,000 Vols about careers in plant sciences.

Also in October, UTIA and partnering organizations celebrated the opening of the Fresh Electric Farm—a farm inside a shipping container. The farm produces crops indoors while reducing carbon and acreage footprints. The first crop is kale, which was started as seedlings and will be finished in columns under bright, purple LED lights that aid photosynthesis. Directed by Carl Sams (Knoxville ’74, ’76), a distinguished professor and plant physiologist, the project is a cooperation of plant sciences, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Knoxville Utilities Board and the Electric Power Research Institute. Students will learn directly about producing food indoors, and the crops will be donated to Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee.