Haney re-elected state Farm Bureau president

(A version of this article first appeared in The Farmer’s Pride, December 7 issue)

By Ray Bowman

 Pulaski County farmer Mark Haney has served as president of Kentucky Farm Bureau since 2008. On December 2, Haney was re-elected to continue to lead the organization, which boasts a membership of nearly half a million Kentucky families.DSC_8347

Eddie Melton of Webster County was also re-elected to the position of First Vice President and Fritz Giesecke of Hart County will continue to serve as Second Vice President.

Haney seized the opportunity to emphasize the theme of the 2017 annual meeting as he delivered his president’s address during the December 1st general session.

“’Lead Where You Stand’ is such an appropriate theme for our organization” Haney reflected. “We want folks to be able to lead in all areas of their communities; to be able to lead in any organization, whether it be a church group or PTA, whatever it is,” Haney encouraged. “You can be a leader. You can influence lives. You will be able to change where you and your children live and where your grandchildren are going to be. It will make a difference. Step out there and express your opinion. People will listen to leaders.”

Leaders and future leaders were celebrated throughout the annual meeting.DSC_8350

At the commodity luncheon, former Kentucky Farm Bureau president Sam Moore was recognized for his service on the Kentucky Agriculture Development Fund oversight board which he helped to create following the passage of Kentucky House Bill 611 in April of 2000. The legislation set up a process for spending the first phase of tobacco settlement monies.

In 2006 Moore had been chosen as Kentucky’s first Farmer of the Year. This year, Darren Luttrell of Ohio County was selected for the honor. Kentucky Farm Bureau annually recognizes an individual whose efforts not only strengthen the state’s agriculture industry but also demonstrates service and leadership both on and off the farm.

Ben and Katie Furnish of Harrison County were honored as Kentucky Farm Bureau’s 2017 “Outstanding Young Farm Family.” Each year KyFB awards this distinction to a couple, under the age of 35, who has exhibited the strongest farm management skills, most consistent financial growth and highest level of involvement in both Farm Bureau and the community.


Warren cattleman reflects on a long history with the NAILE

(A version of this article first appeared in The Farmer’s Pride, December 7 issue)

By Ray Bowman

The infamous green shavings are gone. The stock trailers and showmen have returned home with their ribbons and banners. The North American International Livestock Exposition is in the books for another year.

The NAILE first came to Louisville in 1974. Warren County Angus breeder Gil R. Cowles says he’s been there since the beginning.


Gil Cowles shares some instruction and encouragement with Katie Smith as she prepares to take a Pleasant Hill heifer into the ring

“Since the North American came to Louisville, I have been every year either as an exhibitor or a spectator,” says Cowles, the owner of Pleasant Hill Farms in Rockfield.

The International Livestock Exposition originated in Chicago, Illinois in 1900 and ran through 1975. After the Union Stockyards were closed in 1971, the show in Chicago ended at the close of the 1975 engagement. In 1974, the North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville was inaugurated and for 1974 and 1975 there were two Expos; one in Chicago, and one in Louisville. In 1976, there was once again one International at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition grounds in Louisville.

“There were enough folks like Jack Ragsdale with the foresight to put this exposition here,” Cowles reflected.

Cowles says the Expo has inevitably seen much change over the last four decades, but the show is still thriving with increased participation for the 17-day run in 2017. “It seems like this year there has been a lot of activity across the entire livestock spectrum, especially on what I call youth weekend,” he reflected. “It seems like this year, there has been an even higher level of participation than I can remember in the most recent past.”Cowles

The NAILE also lives up to its international reputation according to Cowles. “I attended the Saddle and Sirloin induction of (American Angus Association’s) Tom Burke into the Gallery and in that room, there were over 300 guests from 42 states and three foreign countries.”

Indeed, official numbers from Kentucky Venues, parent organization of the Kentucky Exposition Center, bear out Cowles’ observations, reflecting an increase in both exhibitors and rodeo attendance. NAILE drew nearly 30,000 entries with competitors, exhibitors, and attendees from 49 states and six foreign countries. The event generated an economic impact of $8.3 million to the greater Louisville region.

The Great Lakes Circuit Finals Rodeo, held in conjunction with NAILE, saw the highest attendance in five years with more than 19,000 fans enjoying the three performances in Freedom Hall.DSC_8224

“For us, we attend the National Western in Denver, we go to the American Royal in Kansas City, and we come here to Louisville,” Cowles says. “Without question, this is the Crown Jewel and everybody wants to come to Louisville.” Cowles lists outstanding facilities and attractive exhibit areas among the features that set the North American apart from its sister events.

Cowles says he expects his family’s involvement with the North American will continue for at least another generation. “ We have three children that probably like this even more than we do and, if it’s up to them, they’ll continue to do this year in and year out.”

Exports critical to renewed growth in Ag economy

by Ray Bowman

(A version of this article first appeared in The Farmer’s Pride, November 16 issue)

Agriculture here in the United States, and specifically in Kentucky, has had a tough few years in terms of income, due to a peak, and in some instances a decline, in consumption of grain and meat products.

DSC_8158That came as no surprise to Dr. Will Snell’s audience at the Kentucky Agribusiness Summit held recently in Louisville. The AgriBusiness Association of Kentucky hosts the annual event as an informational and networking opportunity for Kentucky’s agricultural leaders.

The University of Kentucky agricultural economist noted that, so far, 2017 has been a better year for farm income, but he emphasized that improving ag exports will assist in an economic rebound.

“We, as an industry over the past several decades have become more and more dependent upon international markets,” Snell said. “Right now, over a third of the value of agricultural production in the United States evolves from sales overseas.”

Nationally, according to Snell, about 60 percent of the tobacco harvested ends up on foreign markets and around 70 percent of the Commonwealth’s leaf goes out of the country.

Snell says the U.S. is exporting agricultural products to nearly 200 countries, worldwide. China, Canada, and Mexico make up about 45 percent of all ag exports.

Where are things headed in the future? “The world population is going to hit 9 billion by 2050, 30 percent more mouths to feed,” Snell projected. “Population gains, along with income gains will basically require doubling food production.” Even with current technological advances Snell says that presents a formidable challenge, but also offers many global trade opportunities.

Information from Brookings Institute and World Bank indicate that by 2030, 60 percent of the world population will be designated as middle class, Snell said. “This is a group that wants money available for things like healthcare and entertainment, but they also buy more food, fiber, and fuel,” he noted. “We in agriculture are in the food, fiber and fuel business, so it’s going to present a lot of opportunities as we move ahead towards this era of an increasing global middle class.”DSC_8169

Naturally, the success of international trade is based on treaties that outline the terms of doing business between countries. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has been one of the most visible and perhaps most controversial of those treaties. Snell says that since NAFTA was enacted in 1984, exports to Canada and Mexico have increased by about 400 percent. Now, with the agreement’s future in doubt, the agriculture community is concerned about what impact its renegotiation might have.

“I don’t think you’ll find too many people in agriculture, either economists or farmers or farm organizations, that aren’t extra concerned right now with the potential of the U.S. withdrawing from NAFTA,” Snell said.

On a positive note, Jeff Pendleton, general manager of Hallway Feeds serves as a delegate to the American Feed Industry Association and has had an opportunity to be briefed on the NAFTA negotiations. He says that, while the Trump administration is pushing for resolution of the matter by year’s end, there is a mandate to do nothing to negatively impact agriculture.

In closing, Snell emphasized that Kentucky is in a good position to benefit from an improving world market and is currently the home of a number of international businesses and many more are coming to the Commonwealth to learn more about the diversity of agricultural products available here. Kentucky’s location and available infrastructure also make it an attractive place for international concerns to do business.


Lacefield named Kentucky FSA State Director

by Ray Bowman

(A version of this article first appeared in The Farmer’s Pride, November 16 issue)

Less than a week following U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announcement that Brian Lacefield will serve as Kentucky’s new Farm Service Agency State Director, the Christian County native made his first public appearance wearing the new title. He joined Kentucky Farm Bureau’s Joe Cain and Preston Cory of the Environmental Protection Agency for a panel discussion on federal issues at the Kentucky Agribusiness Summit.DSC_8198

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) explained in a news release accompanying the Lacefield announcement that State Directors help implement policies in planning, organizing, and administering FSA programs in their respective states. They are also responsible for running the day-to-day activities of the state FSA office. Secretary Perdue also announced directors for 15 other states.

“These state directors will help ensure that USDA is offering the best customer service to our farmers, ranchers, foresters, and agricultural producers across the country,” Secretary Perdue said in making the announcement. “FSA plays a critical role in helping the people of agriculture, and are able to connect with people in their home states.  They are the initial points of contact for millions of our USDA customers.  Our goal is to help rural America prosper, and these state leaders will be of great assistance in that task.”

Lacefield suggested that, at this point, he should probably be identified as an “informed voter” rather than a public official.DSC_8192

“I’m four days on the job,” he observed “so, we’re not going to have a whole lot of update coming from the FSA, my bold vision or agenda.”

Lacefield did have some observations on trade, interest rates, and the Farm Bill, areas he has been familiar with in his previous positions. He most recently served as the Market President of FNB Bank and currently sits on the board of the Kentucky Corn Growers, Kentucky FFA Foundation, and the Kentucky Ag Leadership Program.

Lacefield referenced a trip he made with one of the previous day’s Summit speakers, ag economist Dr. Will Snell from the University of Kentucky as one of the factors that focused him on international trade. “I spent two weeks in New Zealand with Dr. Snell, and that whole country is dependent on trade,” he said. “The ag economy is such a big part of their economy, that it’s all about trade.” He noted one of the principal topics of interest for the farmers there is the international exchange rate and how their dollar is standing up against other currencies.


Brian Lacefield with Joe Cain


Many of the Summit speakers were predicting an increase in interest rates when the Federal Reserve Board meets in December. “Right now, we’ve got about a 75 percent chance of a rate hike coming in the December meetings,” Lacefield concurred. He feels the potential for the increase is tied to the outcome of current federal tax discussions.

On the Farm Bill, Lacefield and Cain agree that there’s little chance of the new legislation taking shape before the current one expires. Lacefield encouraged the audience to take part in upcoming listening sessions to be held by Kentucky Farm Bureau later this month.

The Kentucky Agribusiness Summit is an annual event organized by the Agribusiness Association of Kentucky.


Selling the sizzle AND the steak

By Ray Bowman

(First appeared in Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association publication Cow Country News November issue)


Jon Bednarski recognizes himself as a niche marketer and he’s OK with that.

“When you start to realize you’re just a very small pea in the pod, you learn that there’s room for all of us.”

The Oldham County cattleman doesn’t want to be the biggest beef producer and marketer in the country, or the state for that matter, but he does want to be one of the best. To accomplish that goal, he has developed some specialized marketing strategies in an attempt to add value to the Belted Galloway steers he backgrounds.DSC_7414

The Direct Connection

Sherwood Acres Farm was founded in 2003 after Bednarski’s family gave him three Belted Galloways for a birthday present. Around 2005 Bednarski and business partner Dan Weintraub decided to take their product straight to the customer through sales at farmer’s markets. “Back then, in a farmer’s market, you saw produce, vegetables, stuff like that, but you didn’t see any meats. So, here we are, brand new farmers, backing up to a farmer’s market and we’re going to sell frozen meat.”

DSC_7512From the beginning, it was apparent that the meat wasn’t going to sell itself. Utilizing direct beef marketing grant funds from the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association, Bednarski called upon 25 years of sales experience in the log and timber-framed housing business to craft a plan to sell his steaks and roasts. “The first thing we did was produce a website, a brochure and business cards. Then we put together a professional booth layout. We wanted people to think we had been in business five years, not five minutes.”

Sherwood Acres still sells at select farmers markets, arriving in a black and white van painted to suggest the markings of his beloved Beltie steers. The cuts are boneless, so as to prevent puncture of the vacuum packaging, and bear a professionally designed and produced label with the company’s logo and information. Bednarski feels it’s important that the product not only taste good but look good.

DSC_7531The product is also available from a small retail facility, referred to as “The World’s Smallest Beef Shoppe” at the company’s headquarters in LaGrange. Selling mail-order via the internet was also considered, but the logistics of delivering a quality product on such a small scale made the idea impractical.

Adding Value

The primal cuts sold well at the farmers’ markets, but there was a small problem. “We would come home after the weekend, having sold our primal cuts, and we’d have 200 or 300 pounds of ground beef left,” Bednarski explains.

At first, the company investigated selling to restaurants and local markets but found their customers expecting to pay wholesale prices for the product. One exception is the Louisville restaurant, Muscle and Burger Bar. The establishment buys large quantities of the product and pays on delivery. The Sherwood Farms logo is included on the menu, not only to promote the supplier but to also establish the local link, assuring diners that the meat being used was sourced from a nearby producer.

Finding the Niche

DSC_7544Bednarski continues to look for new and better ways to sell his wares and has begun producing a Bacon- Cheeseburger Bratwurst, developed with the assistance of Brooks Meats in Walton. There is also a frozen chili product in the works. These products are targeted for the individual consumer and may also be provided in larger quantities for bigger venues like the Kentucky State Fair and food vendors at sporting events.

“More than ever, today people want to have a connection to the farm,” Bednarski reflects. He thinks that’s the real advantage niche marketers have over larger concerns. “They want to know what goes on behind these gates, and I’m good with that. A niche guy can do that, where a big guy doesn’t have the time to do that.”




Analyst says beef market is improving – for now

By Ray Bowman

(A version of this article first appeared in The Farmer’s Pride, November 2 issue)

Troy Applehans flew into Lexington last October and took note of the brown fields. This year as he arrived for the Kentucky Beef Conference, sponsored by the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association, things were a lot different. “This country looks WAY better than it did last year,” the CattleFax analyst observed. “It was tough looking flying in here last year about this time. I hadn’t seen this part of the world look like that for a long time.”

But the fields were green as Applehans observed pastures on this year’s inbound flight, a distinct difference from 2016.DSC_8107

The comparison extends to the beef market as well. “I’m sure everyone in this room remembers what last October was like for calf prices,’ Applehans reflected. “Unfortunately, if you had to sell during that time frame, you took the lowest prices that we’ve seen in a long time.”

The U.S. average price for a 550-pound steer last October was $127 per hundredweight, according to Applehans. He told the audience at the Fayette County Extension Office that calves from the southeast were slightly less. “So far, this fall, a lot of these calves are bringing in the $150’s and $160’s for upper-end quality, so it’s much improved over last year.” Applehans attributes the bump to success in the futures market.

DSC_8093UK ag economist Kenny Burdine agrees that the market has seen a slight uptick since a year ago. “We’re about 25-cents a pound higher than we were this time last year, which is over $100 per 550-pound calf. Things are certainly not where we’d like them to be, but we’re certainly better off than we were last year.”

Burdine says it’s difficult to predict which way the prices are going to go, but he points to a few things that might affect them.

“It does appear this cow herd is getting bigger, although it’s getting bigger at a smaller rate” Burdine notes, observing that number grew by three percent for two straight years. But, he says that the likely growth this year will be more like one percent. “The cow herd is still growing, but not at the pace that it was, so I think one positive thing I could say is that the pace of expansion has slowed.”

Another factor that may impact prices is growth in pork and poultry production, meaning more competition at the meat case, which Burdine says “hurts us, somewhat.”

“Price outlook over time may be a little bit softer in 2018, but at the same time, a lot of that can be influenced by exports,” Burdine says. “If we get some good news on the export front, that could certainly offset that increase in production and give us some pretty good news.”


The need to feed weeds

By Ray Bowman

(A version of this article first appeared in The Farmer’s Pride, November 2 issue)

DSC_8081When participants signed up for the 2017 Kentucky Grazing Conference, many of them probably wanted to know more about eliminating weeds from their pasture. They heard a slightly different take on things from Kathy Voth.

Since 2004, Voth has been encouraging farmers and ranchers to re-think their approach to pasture management by training livestock to eat what naturally grows, rather than spending money to remove weeds and replace them with a more conventionally accepted plant variety. Before that, Voth worked for 12 years with the Bureau of Land Management.

Voth says committing about an hour a day for eight days will allow producers to train a portion of their animals to consume nutritious plant varieties that they traditionally have overlooked.

“What I’m trying to help people see is that it’s easy to fit in your schedule, and once you do it, you never have to do it again so you’re spending this much time this spring so that you never have to spray your weeds again.”

By training a portion of your flock or herd, Voth says those animals will influence the rest of the animals and any new stock that may be added.

Voth maintains a website at livestockforlandscapes.com to introduce producers to her concept. She has also written a book, entitled “Cows Eat Weeds,” has produced several videos to document her technique and some of its success. She and Rachel Gilker are the editors of On Pasture, a free, weekly, online magazine for graziers.

She quickly admits, however, that her methods may not be for everyone.

“I tell them that it saves 43 percent more forage, I talk to them about reduction in cost, but the reality is that if somebody really needs convincing, I’m like ‘nah, I’m not your gal,’” she confesses. “You have to want to. You have to understand. You have to look at your own operation and say ‘holy cow! I need more forage.’”

Some producers would prefer their pastures to look neat and tidy, rather than weedy. Voth obviously takes a different approach.

“I’ve driven around with lots of people and we drive by what they think is the worst pasture on the place and I go ‘look at that! That is a great pasture!’ and they tell me I’m insane,” she laughs.

“I worked with a guy in Nevada whose cattle made it through a drought on weeds, because the weeds were more resilient.”

“People have asked me what I would plant for a pasture,” she continues. “I would add those really resilient weeds out there because they’re really good forage. If it was me, yeah, I would want a weedy pasture.”

Kathy Voth presented two sessions at the Kentucky Grazing Conference, sponsored by the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service and the Kentucky Forage and Grassland Council. The program also included other diverse topics, such as emerging technologies in weed control and the roles of mixed-species grazing, herbicides and soil fertility and grazing management in an integrated weed control program.

The conference was offered at two regional locations, October 17 at the Fayette County Extension office in Lexington and October 18 in Hopkinsville at the Christian County Extension office.


EPA chief joins McConnell for home state sweep

By Ray Bowman

(A version of this article first appeared in The Farmer’s Pride, October 19 issue)

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt was serving as Oklahoma’s Attorney General when President Trump asked him to accept his current post, but the Kentucky native’s roots run deep in Bluegrass soil. Pruitt was born in Danville, grew up in Lexington and played baseball for the University of Kentucky before finishing his undergraduate work at Georgetown College.DSC_8005

Pruitt and U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell recently spent a day in the Commonwealth announcing that his agency plans to pull the plug on the Obama-era Clean Power Plan. Speaking in Hazard, Pruitt announced plans to sign a proposed rule to formally withdraw the Plan.

“That rule really was about picking winners and losers,” the administrator told the coal-centric audience in Hazard. “The past administration was unapologetic, they were using every bit of power and authority to use the EPA to pick winners and losers on how we pick electricity in this country. That is wrong.”

Coal-producing states, in particular, had seen the Plan, not as a viable program to promote clean energy, but rather as a “War on Coal.”DSC_7977

“It is right for this administration to say the war is over,” Pruitt said.

Later that day, McConnell introduced Pruitt at a Kentucky Farm Bureau-sponsored meeting at Mahan Farms near Paris, saying “the President could not have picked a better person to bring a new approach at the EPA than the leader of the Attorneys General who was going after the previous EPA.” McConnell called the decision “inspired.”

The Clean Power Plan isn’t the only thing that Pruitt has in his sights, however. He told the farmers gathered in Bourbon County that his EPA is also in the process of repealing the Waters of the United States rule (WOTUS), a controversial measure adopted in 2015.

“The last administration told us,” Pruitt said “that we need to provide clarity to people across this country by adopting a new rule that helps set clear guidelines on when federal jurisdiction begins and ends. If that was their goal, they failed miserably.”DSC_8063

Pruitt said the WOTUS rule sent shockwaves across the country because it was not about water conservation but about power over land use decisions. “We’re on the path to get rid of that,” Pruitt continued. “It’s not about power, it’s about trust and empowerment to you.”

The EPA’s goal is not to merely overturn the WOTUS plan, but to replace it with a substitute that reflects the needs and desires of those affected by it.

“We’re going to make an informed decision, but at the end of the day, it’s going to be an objective, bright-line definition so that you know when federal jurisdiction begins and ends. So that years later you don’t have to face the fear of fines that the EPA tries to assess against you because you didn’t get a permit they thought you should get,” Pruitt said.

“Every single day, what we (EPA) do impacts you and we have to work together to achieve better outcomes for water and air quality in this country,” Pruitt said.


Calf Weaning 101: Workshop shows value of pre-conditioning calves

By Ray Bowman

(A version of this article first appeared in The Farmer’s Pride, September 21 issue)

It’s football season and every successful coach has a game plan. It’s also weaning season for some and a successful cattle producer needs an effective game plan to maximize herd profitability.

The University of Kentucky recently sponsored the Weaning 101 Workshop at Eden Shale Farm in Owenton. The remnants of Hurricane Irma were making their way through the area, so participants endured a light rain and cooler than normal temperatures to pick up some tips on pre-conditioning and nutrition.

“We know that weaned calves have more value,” according to Dr. Jeff Lehmkuhler, UK extension beef cattle specialist. “The market reports show us that time and time again.”

Lehmkuhler notes that Kentucky has a long history of supporting a certified pre-conditioning program that has demonstrated added value for participating producers. “This Weaning 101 Workshop is designed to help folks think about taking that next step and adding that value to these feeder calves as weaned calves,” he said.DSC_7831


Participants received some hands-on, chute-side experience processing calves including proper vaccine handling and injection site, de-worming, implanting techniques and ear tagging.

There was also hands-on training on grading feeder cattle. “They learn how to look at feeder calves and think about how they might be graded when they go to market,” Lehmkuhler said.

Classroom time at the workshop included nutrition discussions about supplemental feeding and hay quality needed to produce acceptable rates of gain.

Dr. Steve Higgins from UK was also on hand to show participants how Eden Shale has handled housing and environmental management, such as capturing rainwater off the roof of a barn to store water for livestock.

“When we wean calves in open pens, that soil temperature can get relatively hot if we don’t have shade,” Lehmkuhler pointed out. “Dr. Higgins is showing them some of the shade structures and looking at a high-traffic pad where these calves can stay out of the mud, particularly when we have rains that can make things a little difficult this time of the year.”

Producers in the Commonwealth may face a few hurdles when it comes weaning time, Lehmkuhler acknowledges. “One is the unpredictability of the weather, and there’s sometimes a lack of labor to help get cows up and work them.”



Dr. Jeff Lehmkuhler talks nutrition


Lehmkuhler also says producers need to take the time to make sure their facilities are in order, with everything functioning properly and no holes in the fences. “It’s a stress on the grower if he’s worried about cattle getting out and getting on the road because we haven’t done a good job of maintaining our fences.”

Planning ahead and exercising a few safeguards can make life a lot simpler for the producer when it comes weaning time. “Really, it can be pretty low-stress if we do our homework and we plan.”


Bluegrass Regional Marketplace opens for business

by Ray Bowman

(A version of this article first appeared in The Farmer’s Pride, September 21 issue)

 As you walk through the front doors of the Blue Grass Regional Marketplace, it’s not hard to forget you are at a livestock sales facility. It appears to be more like a mall, lined with upscale boutiques.DSC_7797

Sure, those shops are filled with farm-related décor, clothing, and other merchandise, the entrances are designed to look like sliding barn doors and those beautiful framed photos that cover the walls have an agricultural theme, but there’s still that feel of an up-scale retail center, complete with a nice restaurant and gourmet butcher shop. There are also office spaces for ag industry-related businesses and organizations.

Then, you open that other set of etched glass doors and hear the chant of the auctioneer and the aroma of – well – cows. Welcome to the new and improved Blue Grass Stockyards.


The gleaming new 232,000-square-foot facility represents a stroke of marketing genius. The owners could have opted to simply build a stockyard to relocate and replace the 70-year Lexington landmark following a devastating fire in January 2016, but they rolled the dice and chose to make an investment in Lexington’s tourism and commerce environment as well as continuing their commitment and dedication to Kentucky’s agriculture community.


Just before snipping the ribbon to officially open the facility, Stockyards Chief Operating Officer Jim Akers told the sizeable gathering “It has been a dream of (owner) Gene Barber’s for 20 years to have a one-stop shop for our customers. It is designed around the ease of our customers.”

The complex is located on Iron Works Pike, just off interstate I-75 and within sight of the iconic Kentucky Horse Park. Access from I-75 and proximity to I-64 make it easier to get to the facility than the old yards, which was situated in an industrial park in a more congested area of Lexington.

“It’s gonna be so neat to see people walk into that sale ring, especially our older customers, and realize how hard we’ve tried to create ties back to the old place,” Akers said.DSC_7565

One of the few things that survived the fire was the blueprint for the old sale ring, built in 1976. “We built the (new) sale ring off those plans, and it looks and feels a lot like the old one. Everything’s the same size and the same elevations,” he noted. “We just felt like it was important to do that.”

The historical ties to the former facility don’t end with the sale ring. A museum space is being created to house the few artifacts that were recovered. Other exhibits in the museum will reflect the rich agricultural history of central Kentucky and help define Blue Grass Stockyards’ role in its development.


Across the hall from the museum will be the Y.A.R.D.S (Youth-Advocacy-Research-Demonstration-Sustainability), an educational outreach of the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Foundation and Kentucky Beef Council with additional support from platinum sponsor, Farm Credit Mid-America. The classroom space has been donated by Blue Grass Livestock Marketing Group. The space is primarily geared to ag education programs for pre-K to college students, but will also be available for continuing education for beef producers and industry partners.

Ground was broken for the stockyards site on September 2, 2016 and the official ribbon cutting took place a year and six days later, September 8, 2017. Akers said he had hoped to be done sooner, but weather delays impacted construction. The first sale was conducted on Monday, September 11.

“The reality is that the ag business is a huge part of the state’s economy” Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development Secretary Terry Gill told the audience at the ribbon cutting. “We’re looking for more ways to work with the ag community in an entrepreneurial way. At Economic Development, we see great opportunity and continued support for ag businesses in this state.”

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