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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Governor addresses Ag Council

By Ray Bowman

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

Since 2006, Kentucky’s governors have asked the Kentucky Agriculture Council to assume a leadership role in planning to help increase net farm income and to improve the quality of life in rural areas of the Commonwealth. However, the recent quarterly meeting of the council at the Kentucky State Fair marked the first time a governor had attended and addressed the group.

Council chair John McCauley called on Warren Beeler, Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Agriculture Policy to introduce Governor Matt Bevin, who Beeler described as someone “who understands the value of agriculture.”
Ag Council

“I do have great respect and appreciation for what you do,” the Governor told the room filled with commodity group representatives, agribusiness leaders, and agriculture educators. “I’m grateful to live in a state where so much of what we are blessed to be able to eat is grown right here.”

Bevin was quick to remind the group that he is no newcomer to agriculture, having grown up on a farm and shown livestock at county fairs, sleeping in a sleeping bag in the loft above the animals “It was the highlight of my entire social year as a kid, once a year at the county fair with my animals, sleeping in the barn. That was as good as it got for me.”

The governor went on to praise the agriculture industry in Kentucky for its sense of community and urged them to consider doing two things; think bigger and think different.

“Think about globalizing what you do,” the governor urged. “The bottom line is, there’s markets everywhere, whether it’s China, whether it’s Europe, whether it’s Canada, whether it’s Mexico, it doesn’t matter. All over the world there’s opportunity for the things that you do.”

Bevins praised Kentucky agriculture commissioner Ryan Quarles for his education and experience in foreign trade, saying that he and Beeler and their organizations are valuable resources that should be utilized.

The “think different” component, according to Bevin, involves taking the product past the growing stage and adding value to it.

“It can be done. Some of you are already doing it. Let’s find better ways to do it,” the governor encouraged.

Commissioner Quarles spoke following the governor and was quick to return the praise. “Isn’t it refreshing to have a governor that knows the difference between a soybean and a green bean,” Quarles mused. “We’re just happy that he shares the vision that you all do. We have a governor that’s accessible and responsible and one that’s willing to listen first before making decisions.”

State Senator Paul Hornback, chair of the Senate agriculture committee and Representative Richard Heath, chairman of the House ag committee both briefly spoke to the group, as did Miss Kentucky, Molly Matney.

Freddy at 60

By Ray Bowman

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

The Kentucky State Fair’s biggest celebrity celebrated six decades on the job as the 2017 event opened. The iconic figure has served as the Fair’s official welcome since 1958.

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Kentucky Farm Bureau President Mark Haney wishes Freddy Farm Bureau a happy 60th anniversary

Sitting atop a stack of hay bales, Freddy Farm Bureau is a down-home ambassador dispensing cordial greetings, farm facts and information about the variety of activities from the Fair’s “front porch” in front of Freedom Hall. At 13 feet tall seated (about 18 feet were he to stand) visitors can spot Freddy pretty easily and many come by to engage him in conversation and pose for a picture. State Fair guests often use Freddy as a rallying point, telling friends and family to “meet me at Freddy Farm Bureau!”

“In the early years, most of my visitors had a connection to the farm but that has changed since then. But that’s okay. I’m happy to help remind people why we farm and point them in the direction of the many agricultural exhibits,” Freddy recently noted in a column in the magazine, Kentucky Farm Bureau News.

Freddy got a new outfit for the big occasion, even though he is a bit tough to shop for. His pant waist is 96 inches (eight feet?) and his inseam is 68 inches. His shirt has a 42 inch collar and 66 inch sleeves. He wears a size 31 shoe. His taste in clothing hasn’t changed much over the years. He still sports jeans and a chambray shirt with a red bandana around his neck.

Freddy's cakeKentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles joined Kentucky Farm Bureau president Mark Haney and executive vice president David Beck for the celebration of Freddy’s Anniversary.

An effective communicator, Freddy has kept up with the times and embraced social media with a Facebook page and a Twitter account @FreddyFB. His Facebook timeline recently featured a “selfie” of him in his solar eclipse glasses.

“While we all have experienced change since my first fair, some things remain the same,” Freddy said in his KFB News column. “The Kentucky State Fair has always been a place to celebrate our heritage, our diversity and our love for this great state.”

Innovation plus tradition equals success for the Kentucky State Fair

By Ray Bowman

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

Astute visitors to the 2017 Kentucky State Fair no doubt recognized many of the elements that have spelled success for the event in years past, yet there were some distinct changes that may have met with mixed reactions according to Jason Rittenberry, who served as fair board president and CEO during the annual event. Rittenberry resigned a week later.

“We’ve made some changes this year. Some have been popular, some have been not so popular,” admits Rittenberry. “Some people may not be comfortable with change, but so far I think all the changes we’ve made have been positive. Overall, most of the changes we made were for the improvement of the fair but most of the feedback we’ve gotten so far has been positive.”

Those changes included a new mobile application to help fair goers plan their visits in advance and express lanes at some of the gates to allow pre-paid attendees quicker access to the venue.

Those attending the opening morning Commodity Breakfast were welcomed by a new, bigger tent that provided better crowd flow and more room.

Another modification was to rename the Midway “Thrill Ville” and move it to a more centralized, higher visibility portion of the grounds. “The Midway has been way up on attendance, it’s been easier to find and it’s been front and center, which was really my goal.”

 

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LtoR, Fair Board Chair Dr. Mark E. Lynn, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer,  Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, Miss Kentucky Molly Matney, Governor Matt Bevin, Jason Rittenberry, Vice Chairman Don Parkinson

 

Rittenberry abruptly resigned September 1. According to an article in the Louisville Courier-Journal, fair board chairman Dr. Mark Lynn said Rittenberry resigned because of pressing family matters. Rittenberry was not available for comment when the article was published.

Rittenberry accepted the position last November, his third day on the job being the opening day of the North American International Livestock Exposition.  However, as a finalist for the job last summer, he paid a visit to the 2016 Kentucky State Fair to see what he might be getting himself into.

“I could see the potential and I could see some potential changes,” Rittenberry said.

The 42-year-old Tennessee native brought a wealth of entertainment experience to his new job, even though his agriculture experience was limited to time spent on his grandparents’ tobacco farm. Rittenberry served as president and CEO of the Florida-based IRG Sports+Entertainment managing venues nationwide. His most recent position before coming to Louisville was chief strategy officer for the Texas auto racing complex Circuit of the Americas, which also included Austin360 Amphitheater and the AT&T Events Center.

Rittenberry is known for a very hands-on approach to his projects, and that was very much in evidence at this year’s Fair, as he attended every major event.

To better describe the scope of his new organization, Rittenberry rebranded the Kentucky State Fair Board as Kentucky Venues. The name, he feels, is a more accurate reflection of the diverse activities taking place at the Kentucky Exposition Center and the Kentucky International Convention Center, the two properties overseen by his agency.

Overall, this year’s fair drew more than 609,000 visitors during an 11-day run, exceeding last year’s attendance by more than 44,000, even after being impacted by two days of rain. Last year, only one day of the Fair’s run was affected by inclement weather. Pleasant temperatures and clear skies for the closing weekend of the fair may have well made up for the earlier deficiencies, according to Rittenberry.

UK Ag Biotech Day showcases diversity for high schoolers

By Ray Bowman

(A version of this article first appeared in The Farmer’s Pride, August 17 issue)

 Many high school students with an interest in sciences may not be aware of the myriad of opportunities available to them when they begin their college career.

“Most of the students who come here and major in biology or think about science think about it because they want to be doctors,” according to Dr. Carol Hanley from the UK Tracy Farmer Center for the Environment. “This program introduces them to other options, and that’s why it’s so important.”

In July, the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment hosted Ag Biotech Day, a free event designed to introduce high school students to career opportunities available to them in agriculture.

 

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Lab host Wesley Pires talks about research on biological controls for the Emerald Ash Borer

 

“Our goal is to provide a forum for people to ask questions and see the kind of research that’s going on, talk with researchers about what they’re doing and why it’s important,” according to Ellen Crocker, a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Forestry who, along with Dr. Hanley and others, organized the event. “There’s so much great research going on here, and I think the public isn’t aware of it.”

“I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding about what biotechnology is,” Crocker continued. “It’s a huge diversity of different tools, different techniques, and different applications.”

Dr. Paul Vincelli, an extension professor and Provost’s Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology says he hopes the Open House helps clear up some of the misunderstanding and starts some necessary conversations. “Ellen and I discussed this issue of how do we find a way to humanize biotechnology and this was the plan we came up with,” he notes. “At a minimum, we’re having a chance to bring potential students to campus and interact with professors and other students in the ag biotech program, and that’s good for UK, it’s good for the students to have those choices.”

Dr. Vincelli says it’s important to show that “there are real people, especially young people with ideals” working in the field of biotech who are excited about the work they are doing and its relevance to society. “Every one of them has an interest in trying to make the world a little bit of a better place.”

As the students, parents and other interested individuals toured the labs during the open house, they were introduced to research being conducted in seed development, forest health threats, soil and plant bacteria and plant viruses. Topics of discussion ranged from improving soybean genetics to finding better methods to fight invasive insects like the highly destructive emerald ash borer.

Dr. Crocker stressed that biotechnology is not as new and mysterious as some people think. “The fact that we have the crops that we have today is because biotechnologists have been selecting the best version of corn, the best version of your favorite fruit or vegetable for hundreds of years. That’s biotechnology, just like genetic engineering is.”

Boyle Farm-City Breakfast celebrates county’s ag contributions

By Ray Bowman

(A version of this article first appeared in The Farmer’s Pride, August 3 issue)

Agriculture is a pretty big deal in Boyle county and they’d like everyone to know about it.

“Boyle County has 620 farms, total, covering 121,549 acres with the average farm size being 163 acres,” county Farm Bureau President Brad Godbey told the 150 or so attendees at the 4th Annual Boyle County Farm-City Breakfast. He says that in 2015, the county brought in almost $31 million in ag receipts.

“Ag-related jobs in our county are very important,” Godby continued, noting that for the same 2015 period they represented just shy of 8 percent of the county’s employment. He speculated that number has grown and will continue to grow.

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Godby then introduced the morning’s featured speaker, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, who continued the theme of ag’s importance.

“Wendell Berry says that if you eat, you are committing and agricultural act,” Quarles began. “Food brings people together.”

The commissioner brought the gathering up to speed on the workings of his organization, reminding them that farming is not the only commitment the department has. They are also the Commonwealth’s largest regulatory agency, responsible for areas as diverse as the accuracy of gasoline pumps to the safety of carnival rides.

Quarles also showed another side of his personality, a sly, subtle sense of humor.

“It’s a fact that there are more people on FarmersOnly.com than there are farmers,” he mused, referring to the infamous on-line dating site.

Noting that the average age of farmers in the United States is currently 62, the commissioner said, “name another occupation where the average age is almost retirement age, besides the U.S. Senate.”Ryan in Danville

“If you’ve had a biscuit from McDonalds anywhere on the east coast of the United States, it came from Kentucky,” Quarles noted. After asking who hasn’t had a biscuit from McDonalds and receiving a modest response, he observed “there’s some liars out there.”

Shifting back to his serious side, the commissioner talked about one of his pet programs. One year ago, he launched the Kentucky Hunger Initiative, an innovative program that works to identify food solutions for Kentuckians who need it most.

Recently, the Kentucky General Assembly passed House Bill 237, the Food Immunity Bill. “Now Kentucky has the strongest Good Samaritan donation language in the nation,” Quarles said.

According to the Louisville Courier Journal, “the bill satisfies retailers’ concerns they might be sued by a consumer claiming illness for consuming packaged, shelf-stable products. It also provides liability protection for farmers to donate unsold crops to food banks and nonprofit agencies.”

Quarles closed by complimenting Boyle county as a community that cares about ag literacy and understanding agriculture and “get’s it.”

Third Thursday Thing turns 20

By Ray Bowman

(A version of this article first appeared in The Farmer’s Pride, August 3 issue)

 Two decades ago, Kentucky State University Small Farm Specialist Marion Simon was wrestling with some pressing questions. With tobacco production disappearing, how would the Commonwealth’s small farmers, who relied so heavily on the cash crop, survive? How about other small farmers and new farmers with non-agricultural backgrounds who were seeking alternative farm production methods?

Simon went searching for answers and came up with a project whose longevity has surprised even her.

The application window for 1997 SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) grant proposals was about to close. In the space of about two hours, Simon conceived a two-year Extension Training Project and submitted the application just ahead of the deadline.

“It was just a two-year project,” Simon reflected. “I never expected the amount of attention and support it has received.”

“From its development in 1997 until today, this project touches more farmers and agriculturalists than any other SARE program we have,” noted Dr. Jeff Jordan, Director of Southern SARE and University of Georgia agriculture professor, speaking at the anniversary celebration and workshop at KSU’s Harold R. Benson Research and Demonstration Farm.

 

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Dr. Marion Simon (right) and KSU Small Farm Outreach Project Manager Louie Rivers (left) have watched the Third Thursday Thing grow from the beginning

The Third Thursday Thing was in its second year when Dr. Kirk Pomper joined the KSU Staff as a researcher. He is now Land Grant Program Director in the university’s College of Agriculture, Food Science and Sustainable Systems. He points to new faculty and added programs for the project’s stakeholders as a way to keep the Third Thursday sessions “fresh.”

“We’ve hired some new folks in urban ag, livestock nutrition, forestry, youth programming and value-added processing of aquaculture,” Pomper noted. “I think those extension and research positions are going to expand the Third Thursday topics into new areas and provide information for new people.”

Pomper says the concept of the Third Thursday Thing helps remove some of the barriers that have traditionally existed between the academics and the application of agriculture research.

“It allows researchers to interact with the farmers, which is really important and I can’t emphasize that enough,” he says. “That way the research actually starts making sense for the producer. We start working on things that they’re interested in and we make sure we’re trying to solve problems that they need solved.”

In the early days, the workshops averaged about 30 participants, but as the word began to spread attendance continued to grow, sometimes overwhelming the modest facilities that had been adapted to accommodate the sessions. The monthly event now attracts hundreds of diverse participants, ranging from active to prospective producers to consumers who want to know more about what it takes to put food on the table.

Dr. Simon insists the interest, primarily from active participants and stakeholders, is what has led to the success of the Third Thursday Thing and will pave its way into the future.

 

Kentucky Dawgs bite into the local food market

by Ray Bowman

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

Henry County cattleman David Neville spent a quarter century using his marketing degree and commensurate skills for what he calls “corporate America.” Now he’s applying his expertise and some of the experience gained in the business world to help Kentucky producers sell their wares, most prominently a product of Neville’s own creation called Kentucky Dawgs.DSC_6861

“I had what I thought was going to be a ‘one-off’ conversation with the executive director of the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association, Dave Maples, about getting local beef into the Kentucky State Fair,” Neville recalls. In past years, the food booths run by KCA at the event have relied on beef, supplied by commercial vendors, that may have been raised or finished anywhere in the United States.

The idea of using Kentucky-sourced beef was attractive, but Neville indicates that a little something extra was needed to really seal the deal.

Neville says a meeting at the University of Kentucky that touched upon nutritional applications for hemp and hemp oil sparked an idea. The discussion involved how to sell hemp foods and how to sell local beef, and the question was already on the table about introducing a local beef product in the Commonwealth’s most high-profile venue.

An all-beef sausage flavored with hemp oil and textured with hemp hearts (shelled hemp seeds) seemed to fit the bill. The oil comes from Victory Hemp Farms, also located in Henry County, so you might think utilizing the product wouldn’t pose a major problem, right?

Hemp is still an experimental crop in Kentucky and its use required some clarification from the federal authorities. Neville was cautioned that approval to use the additive might take as much as 2 years. “Fortunately, I’m hard-headed enough that I just kept after it,” Neville said.

To help smooth the path and expedite approval for the use of hemp, Neville turned to another farmer from Lewis County, who also just happened to be his congressman.

Rep. Thomas Massie followed up on Neville’s request and soon the USDA responded to the congressman by email, saying that hemp oil and seeds may be used for flavoring meat and poultry products without any additional approval.

Rather than 2 years, the clarification took about 10 days. “We had, for the first time ever, approval to put hemp products in processed meat products, so away we go!”

With that hurdle cleared, there was still a minor problem to be addressed. Neville knew nothing about making sausage.

“I spent three years in the Army in Germany, so I knew what a good sausage was supposed to taste like,” Neville reflected. “I didn’t know how to make it, but I knew what it was supposed to be.”

Kroger

Webb’s Butcher Block in Meade County got things started, overseeing the production of the first Kentucky Dawgs that made their debut at the Kentucky State Fair last year. As a result of the initial offering, the Kroger supermarket chain approached Neville about the product and now features it in fifty-two of their locations around the Commonwealth.

Produced without the hemp, The Kentucky Dawg becomes the School Dawg which is now being embraced by school lunch programs to provide students with an alternative to conventional frankfurters.

After a successful trial run in Frankfort at the Capitol Annex cafeteria during the 2017 legislative session, Neville hopes to soon see Kentucky Dawgs available throughout the Kentucky State Park system.

New products, such as a spicy Kentucky Hot Link, bologna and a Caliente Dawg targeted to Hispanic consumers are also in the works.

The first Dawgs were made from two of Neville’s steers. Now the meat is sourced from cattlemen all over Kentucky. Often it is the trim from more sought-after primal cuts that is usually included in ground beef. Selling the trim for use in the production of the beef sausages provides growers who direct-sell their steaks and roasts with yet another revenue source.

The local foods movement, focusing many times on value-added products like Neville’s brainchild, has been very successful in recent years. Of course, the quality must be there for customers to keep coming back, but almost as important is the sense of place, connection to the land and the support of regional agriculture local foods provide.

“As I’ve said many times, David Neville is not irresistible, but this story we have is,” he muses. “It’s a story that needs to be told.”

Weather threatens but cooperates for Franklin County field day

By Ray Bowman

(A version if this article first appeared in The Farmer’s Pride, July 20 issue)

Heavy clouds hung over the Steve Thornton family farm on Mt. Zion Road on the morning of the 59th Annual Franklin County Farm-City Field Day. Thunderstorms had rolled through the area earlier that morning and the threat of more showers persisted, yet the weather conditions seemed to have little impact on the attendance and enthusiasm for the event.

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Volunteers hustled to restock the wagons that would transport visitors with fresh, dry straw bales as tractors lined up to pull the wagons to the starting point of the tour.

 

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As the tractors started rolling, urban and rural attendees alike were ferried to several instructional stops that addressed gardening and vegetable diseases, hay storage, forage management and invasive plant species identification and control.

 

 

 

 

The tour wound its way across the farm to a small tent city set up to serve lunch, including rib-eye sandwiches, burgers, and hot dogs. Kentucky Dawgs, the brainchild of Henry County farmer and entrepreneur David Neville were also available for sampling. This unique Kentucky Proud product is a beef sausage flavored and textured with oils and hearts (shelled seeds) from hemp, the Commonwealth’s newest

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experimental crop. The Franklin County Cattlemen’s Association grilled the steaks and additional entrees and side items were provided by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4075 and other donations.

 

 

Following the meal, local dignitaries thanked the crowd for their perseverance in light of the questionable weather. Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles welcomed everyone saying that much of his youth was spent with family on farms in Franklin County. He also focused on the importance of bringing city-dwelling friends and family out to the farm, whether it be this type of event or other opportunities.

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“It’s a chance to inform people who otherwise might not have the opportunity to see, first hand, where their food comes from,” Quarles noted.

Farm-City Field Day is presented by UK Cooperative Extension, the Frankfort/Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, the Franklin County Conservation District and Franklin County Farm Bureau. It is made possible by the help of 125 volunteers and more than 30 groups and business that donate money or services.

For the most part, the event enjoyed a respite from the rain, but as visitors were transported back to their vehicles, the clouds began to regroup for another round of afternoon showers.

Protecting Kentucky’s Pollinators

by Ray Bowman

(A version if this article first appeared in The Farmer’s Pride, July 6 issue)

 Mention the term pollinator and most people’s thoughts go to honey bees. Interestingly, the honey bee as we think of it today is not even native to the Americas.

According to Wikipedia (and who doesn’t believe Wikipedia?) honey bees appear to have their center of origin in South and Southeast Asia. They may have bummed a ride with the early colonists around 1622, when they arrived by way of Europe. The Native Americans dubbed it “the white man’s fly.”

But as ubiquitous as the honey bees now are, Kentucky’s state apiarist Tammy Horn says the Commonwealth hosts plenty of other (mostly) native pollinators.

“Pollinators is a very broad umbrella, that includes bats, hummingbirds, and butterflies – especially Monarch butterflies,” Horn observed. She noted that the Monarchs are a matter of concern, as are the honey bees, due to much-publicized fluctuations in their populations.

All this underscored the importance of Kentucky Pollinator Week, which coincided with National Pollinator Week, June 19-25.

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The Kentucky Department of Agriculture hosted state beekeepers, garden clubs and other pollinator friends at an event held in a green space adjacent to the Department offices, where various hives and pollinator attractive plants were on display. Ag chief of staff Keith Rogers read a proclamation from Governor Matt Bevin and Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles emphasized the need for continued public education about the importance of agriculture and the impact of pollinators on that industry.

“We’ve got to do a better job of telling people the basics because when we have a sophisticated issue such a Colony Collapse Syndrome or other issues affecting the bee community, you’ve got to have a basic level of understanding before there can be intelligent discussion,” Quarles noted.

 

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Tammy Horn with Commissioner Ryan Quarles

 

Also at the event, Commissioner Quarles was presented with the Kentucky Pollinator Protection Plan, which Horn points to as a four-part set of guidelines to address some of the challenges being faced by Kentucky’s pollinator population.

“We’re defining best management practices, we’re increasing pollinator habitat, and we’re increasing education,” Horn explained. “Our last goal has been to create an electronic communication tool so that if something is being sprayed that requires communication with KDA, the sprayer can log on-line and text beekeepers and other managers of sensitive land areas.”

Horn says the final communication component is not active yet, but the project has been approved and is forthcoming.

The pollinator protection plan is on the Department of Agriculture’s web site at http://www.kyagr.com/statevet/documents/OSV_Bee_KY-Pollinator-Pro-Plan.pdf and Horn says parts of it are currently being implemented.

Kentucky Farm Bureau, along with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment and several other stakeholders have been involved in creating the state’s Pollinator Protection Plan.

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