S P R I N G 2016 VO LU M E 2 I S S U E 1
REAL PART Y ANIMALS
P O U LT R Y S C I E N C E F R E S H M A N ’ S S U C C E S S F U L R ARE ANIM AL COLLEC TION BUSINESS .
THE ROWES’ BOAT
A U B U R N A LU M S , B E N E FA C TO R S TA K E A B R E A K TO C R U I S E A M E R I C A’ S G R E AT LO O P.
A SPIRIT THAT IS NOT AFRAID D E C E M B E R G R A D U AT E D O E S N ’ T L E T B R I T T L E B O N E S S LO W H E R D O W N .
AU B U R N U N I V ER S I T Y CO L L EG E O F AG R I C U LT U R E M AG A Z I N E | S P R I N G 2016
IN HER DREAMS Entomology and Plant Pathology postdoctoral fellow and Kenya native Esther Ngumbi transforms her visions into realities through hard work and passion.
THE LOCAL CONNECTION
College of Agriculture researchers are finding ways to connect local foods with local needs.
ALSO IN THIS ISSUE: MEET THE DEAN NEWS & EVENTS ALUMNI FEATURES CL ASS NOTES AG R I CU LT U R E . AU B U R N . ED U
E XECUTIVE E DITOR Josh Woods SE NIOR E DITOR Jamie Creamer
A word from the dean From as early as I can remember, I have known our College of Agriculture for its heritage as one of the founding colleges of Auburn University, for its profound impact on communities throughout our state and for its influence around the world. I am a lifelong member of our college family, and proudly so. I have always considered it an honor to be a graduate of this distinguished college and the son of one of its longtime faculty members. But this year, it has become the greatest honor of my career to serve as dean of the College of Agriculture and director of the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station. I view this position as an opportunity to serve the faculty, staff and students of Auburn University, while also serving our many stakeholders in the state — farmers, agribusiness professionals and the people of Alabama. I believe that by helping to strengthen the food, agricultural and natural resources sectors in Alabama, we will also strengthen the College of Agriculture and AAES. It is my goal to enhance the
leadership role our college plays on the national and global stages. We will positively assert ourselves in the competitive higher education environment. We will continue to find solutions to our world’s leading problems, while meeting the current needs of our students and stakeholders. We will partner with our colleagues across campus and around the world in taking on these challenges. As I begin a new journey as dean and director, I hope it will be a journey we take together – as alumni, as faculty and staff, as friends and as donors to this college we love. For generations, the College of Agriculture has given us much to be proud of – and I believe it will give us even more to look forward to. Thank you for your spport. War Eagle!
Paul Patterson Dean and Director, College of Agriculture and Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station
A SSO CIATE E DITORS Mary Catherine Gaston Paul Hollis CONTRIBUTING WRITE RS Katie Jackson Charles Martin L AYOUT & DE SIG N Ashley Wiskirchen PHOTO G R APHE RS Curt Berry Jaden Brown Jeff Etheridge Mary Catherine Gaston Nathan Kelly Marlee Moore Steve Taylor Chuck Tatum Josh Woods AUBURN UNIVE RSIT Y COLLEG E OF AG RICULTURE Office of Communications and Marketing 3 Comer Hall Auburn, AL 36849-5401 334-844-5887 email@example.com Auburn University is an equal opportunity educational institution/employer. © 2016 AUBURN UNIVE RSIT Y COLLEG E OF AG RICULTURE
In this issue 03 | LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
INTRODUCING OUR NEW DE AN AND DIREC TOR, DR. PAUL PAT TERSON
05 | NEWS 15 | FEATURES 15 | THE LOC AL CONNEC TION: LOC ALLY GROWN FOODS C AN FILL COMMUNIT Y NEEDS. 19 | A AES AND HIGHER YIELDS: LONG-TERM STUDY AIMS FOR M A XIMUM CROP YIELDS. 27 | SERVING UP PROFITS: STUDENT GROUP CRE ATES OPPORTUNITIES BY C ATERING TO C A MPUS AND COMMUNIT Y. 31 | RE AL PART Y ANIM ALS: POULTRY SCIENCE FRESHM AN BUILDS SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS WITH R ARE ANIM AL COLLEC TION. 35 | FAMILY TRADITION: FISHERIES BIOLOGIST PUTS SCIENCE TO WORK ON AL ABAMA’S WATERS.
On the cover 23 |
IN HER DREAMS ESTHER NGUMBI, KENYA NATIVE, TR ANSFORMS HER VISIONS INTO RE ALITIES THROUGH HARD WORK AND PA SSION.
37 | ROWES, ROW ROWE, YOUR BOAT: AUBURN ALUMS, BENEFAC TORS TAKE A BRE AK TO CRUISE A MERIC A’ S GRE AT LOOP. 41 | A SPIRIT THAT IS NOT AFRAID: DECEMBER GR ADUATE DOESN’ T LE T BRIT TLE BONES SLOW HER DOWN.
43 | CL ASS NOTES
WHER E A R E T HE Y N OW ? AU B U R N AG A LUM NI U PDAT E T HEIR S TAT US . 49 | ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: FE ATURING CHRISTIAN BRODBECK AND GREG PATE AND DRONES. 52 | HALL OF HONOR: AGRICULTUR AL ALUMNI GROUP HONORS FIVE FOR CONTRIBUTIONS. 53 | O UT S TA ND IN G A LUMNI AWA RDS : M EE T T HE 10 R ECIPIEN T S O F T HE O U T S TA ND IN G A LUMNI AWA R DS .
55 | CALENDAR OF EVENTS
IN THIS ISSUE | 02
Looking to the future
PAT T E R S O N A S S U M E S N E W R O L E A S CO L L E G E O F AG R I C U LT U R E D E A N , A A E S D I R E C TO R BY JA MIE CRE A MER
Auburn University alumnus Paul Patterson, most recently associate dean for instruction in Auburn’s College of Agriculture, is now dean of the college and director of the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station. Auburn Provost Timothy Boosinger announced Patterson’s selection Feb. 19, following a special meeting of the university’s Board of Trustees to approve Patterson’s AAES directorship position, as required. The appointment was effective immediately. Patterson was selected from a strong pool of candidates who applied for the post in response to a national search. “Dr. Patterson has an excellent connection with students, both in the classroom and in the field,” Boosinger
03 | MEET THE DEAN
said in making the announcement. “His background in agricultural economics, especially in international research and marketing, will help Auburn continue its role as a leader in food production for the world. We look forward to his leadership.” In his role as dean, Patterson will report to Boosinger; as director of the AAES, he will report to Auburn President Jay Gogue. He succeeds Arthur Appel, who had served as interim dean and director since June 2015. Appel, a professor of entomology, has returned to his research and teaching role in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology. An Auburn native, Patterson graduated from the College of Agriculture in 1985 with a bachelor’s
degree in agricultural business and economics and returned to his hometown and alma mater in June 2009 to serve as associate dean of the college. In that position, he was responsible for all instructional programs in the college’s eight academic units, nine undergraduate programs and 19 graduate programs. As associate dean for instruction, Patterson oversaw the development of five new undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the college, increased alumni engagement with the college, improved academic advising services, expanded professional development opportunities for students, worked to enhance the college’s relationship with community colleges and led efforts to develop
THE PAT TE R SO N FA MILY, from left: Jim Douglas, Virginia Patterson, Amanda Patterson, Christine Patterson, newlyweds Roxanna Patterson and Alex Delgadillo, Clayton Patterson and Paul and Louisa Patterson. Not shown are Guillermo Martinez-Ariza, Amanda’s husband, and Patterson granddaughter Ellen Olivia.
departmental promotion and tenure guidelines for faculty. “All these accomplishments were realized through working with great faculty and staff,” he says. Patterson says he is grateful for the opportunity to move Auburn agriculture forward. “I am honored and humbled to be selected as dean and director,” he says. “The College of Agriculture and the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station have very important legacies at Auburn University and across the state and nation. We are at a pivotal point in history, where we must build for the future.” He points specifically to a steady turnover in personnel within the college, as baby-boom faculty members retire from long-held positions. “The college has the opportunity to reshape its faculty through new hires,” he says. “These new faculty will lead the college into the future. “ And given today’s highly competitive environment for research dollars, he will emphasize to current and future faculty members that they must be prepared to vie for funding on a national and international basis. “At the same time, I believe that the Alabama agricultural sector could see significant growth in future years,” Patterson says. “The college, working in concert with our colleagues in the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, must be prepared to support
these growth opportunities.” A top priority in his administration will be to work with faculty and staff in the college, with university partners and with stakeholders to strengthen the college and experiment station. “It is my goal to make sure that Auburn is among the nation’s premier colleges of agriculture,” he says. After graduating from Auburn in 1985, Patterson enrolled at Purdue University and was awarded a master’s degree in agricultural economics in 1987. He spent the next two years working as a cotton analyst for the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service and then returned to Purdue as a USDA National Needs Fellow in International Marketing and began pursuing his
doctorate in agricultural economics. He completed his Ph.D. in 1994. That same year, he joined the faculty at Arizona State University’s Morrison School of Management and Agribusiness, where he taught courses in agricultural marketing, management science and food and agricultural policy and conducted research on issues ranging from food marketing and industrial organization to international trade and food and agricultural policy. He was named interim dean of the school in 2006 and dean in 2007, serving in that role until returning to Auburn. Patterson and wife Louisa have been married for 30-plus years. Mrs. Patterson taught middle school, junior high and high school for 23 years and now is an academic mentor for Student Support Services at Auburn. The couple has four grown daughters—Roxanna, Virginia, Amanda and Christine; one son, Clayton, a student at Auburn Junior High School; and one granddaughter, Ellen Olivia. Patterson’s father, the late R.M. Patterson, was a longtime College of Agriculture faculty member who served as head of Research Data Analysis until his retirement in 1985. His mother, the late Jean Patterson, worked for many years as Auburn High School’s librarian.
H OMEG ROWN LE A D E R . Dr. Patterson visits with students in the foyer of Comer Hall.
MEET THE DEAN | 04
R E CO R D E N R O L L M E N T R E F L E C T S R O B U S T R E C R U I T I N G P R O G R A M , J O B M A R K E T BY JA MIE CRE A MER
Fall semester 2015 was a record setter for Auburn’s College of Agriculture, as total enrollment hit an all-time high of 1,430 students. That number included the most undergraduates ever, at 1,128, and a record 302 graduate students and continued the solid enrollment growth the college has experienced for several years. Paul Patterson, dean for of the college, attributes the college’s steady annual rise in enrollment in large part to the Office of Student Services’ year-round student-recruitment effort. “The college has an excellent recruitment program, led by [student recruitment and alumni relations coordinator] Amanda Martin, that introduces thousands of prospective students each year to Auburn’s College of Agriculture and to the many opportunities in the food, agriculture and natural resources sectors,” Patterson says. “The Student Services team not only holds numerous special activities on
and off campus for high school students and their families but also ensures that the College of Agriculture at Auburn has a strong presence at regional and national events, such as the National FFA Convention and the annual Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, Georgia.” Two other factors are contributing to the rising enrollment as well, Patterson says. “There’s also a robust jobs market in agriculture, with demand for college graduates in agriculture significantly outpacing supply,” he says. “Too, students are realizing that working in agriculture is highly rewarding. They know that they are working in an industry that is vital to our economy and important to our lives.” The 1,128 undergraduates enrolled fall semester included 268 first-time freshmen who hailed from 23 states, the District of Columbia and two foreign countries, Bolivia and Indonesia. Their average high school GPA was 3.77, and
the average ACT score was 26. The Department of Animal Sciences claimed the majority of those students, at 156, with 132 of those choosing the pre-veterinary option and 16 the equine science track. Another 40 of the first-time freshmen were agricultural business and economics majors, and 20 were either agronomy and soils or environmental science majors in the Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences. In the Department of Poultry Science, the 18 new freshmen included eight enrolled in the pre-vet option. Based on the total enrollment numbers for fall, the majority of College of Agriculture students—51.4 percent— were female. Among graduate students, males did outnumber females 172 to 130, but at the undergraduate level, there were 605 females, 523 males.
AU B U R N B OA R D O F T R U S T E E S VOT E S E T S S TAG E FO R F U N C H E S S D E M O L I T I O N BY JA MIE CRE A MER
A building proposal that Auburn University’s Board of Trustees approved at its November meeting stands to dramatically transform Auburn’s Ag Hill in the next few years. In a unanimous vote, the board gave the go-ahead to a new Agricultural Sciences Research Building to house the College of Agriculture’s departments of entomology and plant pathology, horticulture and crop, soil and environmental sciences and an Interdisciplinary Science Building that the College of Sciences and Mathematics’ biological sciences and geosciences departments would occupy. All five of those departments have called Funchess Hall home for decades. Their relocation would leave Funchess vacant, and, as called for in the university’s Comprehensive Master Plan, the South College Street
05 | NEWS
building that for 55 years has served as the unofficial eastern border of Ag Hill would be leveled. Rightly so, said Dan King, associate vice president for Facilities at Auburn, in presenting the two construction projects to the trustees. “Funchess Hall is in a deteriorated state and has outlived its useful life,” King said. The demolition of Funchess would open up a prime piece of real estate that would be “a great site” for a state-of-the-art academic building that could be a tool in recruiting top faculty, King noted. He did not specify which college or school on campus would benefit from such a facility. The Agricultural Sciences Research Building to which the college’s three departments would move would be situated on West Samford Avenue, about three blocks southwest of Comer
Hall and Ag Hill. The proposed site is adjacent to the USDA-owned property at the corner of West Samford and South Donahue. Construction of the building would entail the relocation of some structures that are part of the horticulture department’s Paterson Greenhouse complex. The board’s approval of the project sets in motion the process for selecting a building architect and construction manager. The board resolution calls for the project to be financed by a combination of university funds, state funding and gifts and stipulates that, if sufficient funds haven’t been raised by November 2018, the project will be withdrawn and resubmitted when funding is available.
THE D R A M ATIC IMPROV E ME NT S to the courtyard behind the Tom Corley Building are best illustrated by the before photo, at left, and the after picture, above.
M A K E OV E R T R A N S FO R M S CO R L E Y CO U R T YA R D ’ S L O O K S , F U N C T I O N A L I T Y B Y M A R Y C AT H E R I N E G A S TO N
One of the best-kept secrets on Auburn University’s campus can be found between the Tom Corley Building and the Biological Engineering Research Lab, better known as BERL. It is the newly renovated Corley courtyard. A favorite gathering space for biosystems engineering students, faculty and staff, the courtyard is as hard-working and sustainable as it is good-looking. Every Auburn resident benefits from the ecological remediation services the courtyard’s reworked stormwater drainage system provides, says Steve Taylor, Department of Biosystems Engineering professor and head. The trees and flowerbeds are a case in point. They are growing in biorention cells. The cells, each of which is several feet deep and has a concrete floor and its own drainage system., hold runoff from the BERL roof and the courtyard surface and slowly release it into the stormwater system, providing natural
filtration and ultimately helping improve water quality in Parkerson Mill Creek, Taylor says. This is one of several projects around the Auburn campus designed to improve the water quality in Parkerson Mill Creek, which is on the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of impaired waters. While the curving lines of brick pavers in the courtyard are purely aesthetic, they pay homage to the first head of what was then the agricultural engineering department, Mark Nichols. The serpentine paver design was meant to mimic the contours of the Nichols terrace, an innovation the Auburn professor designed and one that helped save the South’s topsoil and agricultural industry during and after the Great Depression. The original design for the courtyard was crafted by then-undergraduate biosystems engineering and Honors College student Ryan McGehee. Now completing his master’s degree in the department, McGehee planned the
project to complete the requirements for his undergraduate honors thesis. The final design was an adaptation of McGehee’s work developed by biosystems engineering alumnus Jonah Taylor, who works for Krebs Engineering. Funding sources for the courtyard renovation project included the Department of Biosystems Engineering, Auburn’s Facilities Management and grants supporting the Parkerson Mill Creek restoration project. The courtyard was constructed by Auburn-based HBS General Contractor Services, though numerous biosystems engineering students volunteered their labors and several College of Agriculture faculty members provided technical assistance. Photos that were taken throughout the courtyard renovation project can be found on the “biosystems engineering at Auburn University” Facebook page.
NEWS | 06
AG A M B A S S A D O R S G E A R U P FO R C H I N A S T U DY TO U R B Y M A R Y C AT H ER I N E G A S TO N
For poultry science senior John Allen Nichols, a trip to China this summer will be a first. While it won’t be the first time the Trussville native has traveled internationally, it will be his first as an ambassador. As president of the Auburn University College of Agriculture’s Ag Ambassadors, Nichols is helping plan the 10-day excursion that will expose 20 ag students, 12 of whom are currently serving as Ag Ambassadors, to the Chinese culture and agricultural system and allow them to interact with students, faculty and industry leaders in the country that ranks first globally both in agricultural production and importation. The result of a years-long relationship with China Agricultural University, this will be the second time students from Auburn will visit their counterparts in Beijing. They will also tour the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service located inside the U.S. Embassy and agricultural businesses in Beijing before seeing popular cultural sites. “China is a developing country with a large population, and agriculture is extremely important there,” says Luxin Wang, a Department of Animal Sciences
assistant professor and co-organizer and -leader of the tour. “I believe that studying abroad will provide the students chances to explore new ideas and different cultures and also learn how to be more self-reliant.” While Nichols is certainly excited about these aspects of the experience, the thing he appreciates most? “With the help of scholarship funds, we are paying very little out of pocket to travel,” he says. A number of opportunities to learn and grow abroad will be available to College of Agriculture students this summer, and scholarships are available to offset the costs of all of them. “We believe so strongly in the benefits of these experiences that we have worked to be sure there are funds available to help our students go,” says Henry Fadamiro, assistant dean and director of the College of Agriculture’s Office of Global Programs. The scholarships are designed to offset the cost of study abroad opportunities so that international experiences will be attainable for more students in the college and the number of students who take advantage of the opportunities will grow.
S T U DY A B R O A D I N 2 0 1 6
CH IN A CO S TA R I C A CU B A E N G L A ND FR A N CE ME XI CO NETHERLANDS PE RU S PA IN V IE TN A M Contact: ELIZABETH SCARBOROUGH OFFICE OF GLOBAL PROGRA MS 33 4-8 4 4-32 10 M E W007 1@AU B U R N . ED U Visit: agriculture.auburn.edu/abroad.
AU B U R N ’ S S H AW, P E G U E S L E A D T E A M U S A TO I N T E R N AT I O N A L S O I L J U D G I N G T I T L E
BY JA MIE CRE A MER
JOEY SHAW AND KRISTEN PEGUES
show their Auburn spirit from a soil pit just north of Budapest, Hungary.
07 | NEWS
Auburn University soil and environmental sciences professor Joey Shaw coached Team USA to the title as 2015 world champions at the second annual International Field Course and Soil Judging Contest in Gödöllő, Hungary, and team member and agronomy and soils graduate Kristen Pegues scored higher than any other individual in the competition, making her the reigning No. 1 soil judger in the world. Team USA beat out 16 other soil judging teams from around the globe on its way to the championship. Among the 70-plus individual team members participating in the contest, Pegues finished with the highest score, and the three other Team USA members— from Kansas State, West Virginia and Delaware Valley universities—also
had excellent scores, finishing fourth, seventh and eighth. Shaw, who is in his 17th year of coaching Auburn soil judging teams, won the head coach duties for America’s team in the global showdown after leading Auburn’s Soil Judging Team to the championship in the 2015 National Collegiate Soil Judging Contest at the University of Arkansas–Monticello last April. Auburn’s Pegues had the top individual score in that contest, too, and she and the next three highest scorers were named to Team USA. Pegues is now pursuing her master’s degree at the University of Georgia. Her father, Malcomb Pegues, is director of Auburn’s Gulf Coast Research and Extension Center in Fairhope, Ala.
N E W S O I L Q UA L I T Y M E A S U R E M E N T CO U L D B O O S T P R O D U C T I O N , CO N S E R VAT I O N BY PAU L H O L L I S
What’s your SQI? Researchers at Auburn University are hoping this soon will become a common question among the state’s agricultural producers. Charles Mitchell, a professor in the College of Agriculture’s crop, soil and environmental sciences department and an Alabama Extension agronomist, says the Alabama Soil Quality Index, or SQI—the first of its kind in the South— is a new measurement of soil health that should help Alabama farmers improve production and conserve natural resources. “For 60 or 70 years now, we’ve been throwing fertilizer and lime on the soil, trying to help farmers get by on some pretty darn poor soils,” Mitchell says. “We thought we needed to do something to change that, so we came up with the Alabama Soil Quality Index.” A previous survey of central Alabama cotton fields revealed that organic matter in the state’s soils was almost nonexistent. NOTHING BUT DIRT
“In other parts of the world, our soils wouldn’t even be considered soils; they’d be considered simply ‘dirt,’” Mitchell said. “By definition, soil must have organic matter.” The survey, conducted in 2001, indicated that 55 percent of fields had soil organic matter of less than 0.4 percent, and 67 percent of the fields surveyed had a hardpan within a few inches of the surface, even though farmers were doing in-row subsoiling. At the time, 85 percent of the producers were not using a cover crop, which exposed the bare soil to erosion for six months a year. On the other hand, most growers were soil testing and then liming and fertilizing based on the results of those tests. “The ‘Old Rotation’ experimental field on the Auburn University campus has shown that soils with less than 2 percent of organic matter don’t have a high yield potential,” Mitchell says. And while the Old Rotation, circa 1896, has been the impetus behind the
development of the SQI, soil samples were taken from 300 other locations throughout the state to help form a basis for the index. “We feel confident the index reflects the quality and the health of the soil being tested,” Mitchell says. “This also would be useful for soils in Georgia and Mississippi, but not in the Midwest. Most of the information we’re getting now about soil quality is coming out of the Midwest, and that’s a different world from what we have in Alabama. “Some states have already done this, including Cornell University, but our index is unique to the South, and it’s less expensive to run than others,” he says. The SQI was developed to make producers aware of soil quality/soil health; suggest ways of improving soil quality/soil health; use existing, low-cost, soil test methodologies; use existing, routine, composite soil samples from producers; and provide information in a simple, easy-to-understand manner. Also, best management practices will be recommended to help producers improve their SQI value. The SQI tests for soil group, soil pH, phosphorus and potassium rating, base saturation, soil organic matter, nitrogen mineralized, soil respiration, aggregate stability and metals. INDEX IN CONTEX T
“We wanted to have specific recommendations for users of the index, so we linked the SQI to Natural Resources Conservation Service best management practices,” Mitchell says. “If you have low organic matter, we’ll recommend a practice like no-till or cover crops to help build it up.” The SQI score is based on a scale of 0 to 100, and each category is color-coded. A total SQI of 80-plus is green and indicates a high soil quality, with a recommendation to maintain current practices. Fifty to 80 is yellow and indicates moderate soil quality. Growers who fall in this
CH A RLE S MITCHE LL
range are advised to continue current practices but to consider implementing additional best management practices. Less than 50 is red, indicating poor soil quality, with a recommendation to implement one or more of the best management practices. “We want our soils to be healthy enough to grow row crops, fruits and vegetables and forages,” Mitchell says. “This index can be reviewed every few years to ensure that soils are improving.” Taking a sample for a SQI is no different from taking a routine soil sample for nutrient management, Mitchell says. “Considering the cost of the sample, you can’t afford to take it from every 10 acres of land,” he says. “Instead, select a field you want to evaluate and take a composite sample from that field— from any small part of the field or from the entire field. When submitting the sample, specify that it is for the soil quality index test. It will take a little longer to complete than routine soil samples. Samples can be collected any time during the year, but fall is ideal. The cost of the index is $50.
NEWS | 08
A P P E L E L E C T E D F E L L OW O F P R E S T I G I O U S G L O B A L S C I E N C E O R G A N I Z AT I O N BY PAU L H O L L I S
Auburn University entomologist Arthur Appel, who most recently served as interim dean of the College of Agriculture and interim director of the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station, has been recognized as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for his contributions to scientific innovation, education and leadership. Appel, who is affiliated with the organization’s section on agriculture, food and renewable resources, was elected to the society’s class of 2015 fellows, but he and the 346 other new 2015 fellows were formally honored during the association’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C., in February. The international nonprofit organization was founded in 1848
and today is the world’s largest scientific society. It is dedicated to advancing science, engineering and innovation throughout the world for the benefit of all people. Its tradition of electing fellows began in 1874 as a way of recognizing members for their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to further science or its applications. Appel is a University of California at Los Angeles alumnus with a B.A. in biology and holds M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in urban entomology from the University of California at Riverside. He joined the College of Agriculture faculty in 1985 and served as chair of the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology from 2005 to 2013, when he was named interim associate
A R THU R A PPE L
dean for research in the college and interim assistant director of the AAES. He served as interim dean and director from July 2015 to February 2016. His research interests are the control of urban insects, insect biology and insect physiology and ecology.
FASINA FILLS INTERIM POSTS AS ASSOCIATE DE AN FOR RESE ARCH, A AES ASSISTANT DIREC TOR BY JA MIE CRE A MER
Oladiran Fasina, alumni professor in Auburn University’s Department of Biosystems Engineering, has been named interim associate dean for research in the College of Agriculture and interim assistant director of the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station. His appointment was effective March 16. “Dr. Fasina’s experience and talents as a professor and researcher make him an excellent fit for this role,” says
O L A D IR A N FA S IN A
Paul Patterson, dean of the college and director of the AAES. “We appreciate his willingness to provide leadership and help us chart the future for research programs in the College of Agriculture.” Fasina joined the Auburn faculty as an assistant professor in 2002, was promoted to associate professor in 2007 and to professor in 2012. He was awarded a five-year alumni professorship in 2015. As undergraduate student coordinator for his department, he has led all undergraduate curriculum development while also helping create new graduate programs. “I am excited and honored about the opportunity to work with College of Agriculture and AAES researchers to elevate the reputation and shape the future of our research programs,” Fasina says. Recognized nationally for his expertise in biomass and bioenergy, Fasina has served in key roles on several high-profile U.S. departments of Energy and Agriculture research projects in
recent years. Since joining the Auburn faculty, he has been awarded more than $9 million in extramural funding for his research, which has focused on areas including renewable energy; biomass harvesting, transporting, processing and storage; value-added processing of biological materials; and food engineering. Fasina is a graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, Nigeria, with B.S. and M.S. degrees in biosystems engineering. He holds a Ph.D. degree in agricultural and bioresource engineering from the University of Saskatchewan, Canada. He succeeds Arthur Appel, an entomology professor who had served as interim associate dean for research and interim assistant director since January 2014 and as interim dean and director from July 2015 to February 2016. Appel has resumed his research and teaching programs in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology.
D I S TA N C E E D P R O G R A M AT T R AC T I N G P R O F E S S I O N A L S F R O M A L A B A M A A N D B E YO N D BY JA MIE CRE A MER
Phillip Burrus is a patent attorney in Georgia. Linda Hoang works as a greenhouse supervisor with a California company that develops and markets bio-based products for the agriculture industry. Leighton Smith teaches agricultural education Texas. All are among the 24 working professionals from across the country and beyond who are pursuing their master’s degrees online through the College of Agriculture’s distance education program. The Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences introduced its first distance ed course in 2008. Two years later, the first degree program won approval by Auburn University’s Board of Trustees and the Alabama Commission on Higher Education. Today, master of science, master of turfgrass management and master of agriculture degrees in agronomy and
soils, turfgrass management and soil, water and environmental sciences are available. Dennis Shannon, crop production professor and coordinator of the college’s distance education program, says students are taking advantage of all the options. “We have students in all three programs, some of whom are going the non-thesis route, such as the master of agriculture and turfgrass management options, and others who are getting M.S. degrees,” Shannon says. Students working toward online M.S. and M.Ag. degrees in agronomy and soils can choose to focus on crop science, soil science or general agronomy. A list of the current students shows they live in 15 different states and one foreign country. “We’re excited about admitting our first graduate student who lives
abroad,” Shannon says. “He works in Geita, Tanzania, as an agricultural missionary.” That individual, Brett Harrison, is going for an M.S. in agronomy and soils/crop science and will be required to analyze soil and plant samples. Shannon has contacted administrators of the Nigeria-based International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, and they have agreed to allow Harrison use of their lab facilities in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The distance learning program reached a milestone, of sorts, in December when three students became the first three College of Agriculture distance ed students to graduate. To learn more contact Leslie Grill at firstname.lastname@example.org or (334) 844-3807.
S M O OT H E R , FA S T E R P U T T I N G G R E E N S , T H A N K S TO ‘AU V I C TO RY ’ B E N TG R A S S BY PAU L H O L L I S
AU Victory. It certainly has a ring to it, especially in the minds of Auburn University sports fans. But now it means even more. It’s the name of a new bentgrass variety that promises improved putting greens for golfers. It’s the first bentgrass released by Auburn’s turfgrass research team, and it could be the perfect solution for golf course superintendents looking for a putting surface that will thrive in high heat and humidity. Edzard van Santen, a professor in the Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences, says AU Victory is a survivor of collections made from putting greens during prolonged summer droughts. His approach to developing AU Victory was part “tough love” and part “survival of the fittest.” Bentgrass is grown mostly in the northern third of Alabama, but some golf courses don’t have their own water sources, relying instead on municipal systems. When conditions turned dry
during the summers of 1999 and 2000, some cities cut off golf course water supplies, and greens couldn’t be watered. Seeing an opportunity, van Santen salvaged a few surviving plugs from otherwise decimated greens. Approximately 300 plugs were collected, grown in a greenhouse and transplanted to a field at the Tennessee Valley Research and Extension Center, where the only maintenance for two years was an occasional mowing. About half of the plugs survived, so van Santen initiated a collaborative effort with a private turfgrass breeder in Oregon, who eliminated some of the entries based on appearance and turf quality. Harvested seed was then used to establish plots at Auburn that were rated for color, turf quality and disease tolerance. In May 2004, fungicide applications were withheld and irrigation was minimized. Parents for two experimental populations were then
selected based on quality and disease tolerance. Plugs from the selected entries were sent to Oregon and harvested for seed in 2005 and 2006. Beginning in fall 2005, they were tested in various trials at Auburn and used on golf course nursery greens. One experimental population was chosen for advancement and established in Oregon in fall 2009. Foundation seed was harvested in 2010 and 2011, and commercial seed multiplication was initiated in 2014. AU Victory has proven to be a hit in Alabama, where it was used to renovate greens at Southern Gayles Golf Course in Athens. Nine greens at Deer Run Golf Course in Moulton are seeded to the cultivar, and Bent Brook Golf Club in Birmingham is in the process of renovating all 27 of its greens. For AU Victory seed, contact the Alabama Crop Improvement Association at 334-693-3988.
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E X C E S S I V E R A I N FA L L and flooding this past fall delayed harvest and damaged crops in Alabama, especially in the southern portion of the state.
T I M E LY P L A N T I N G , H A R V E S T I N G A DV I C E B A S E D O N ‘ G O DZ I L L A’ E L N I Ñ O FO R E C A S T BY PAU L H O L L I S
Prior to this past fall’s harvest season, Brenda Ortiz—an associate professor in the Auburn University College of Agriculture’s Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences—advised Alabama farmers to get their crops out of the fields as soon as possible or face the risk of losses due to extreme weather conditions as predicted by national forecasts. It was good advice. Throughout the fall months of 2015, excessive rainfall and flooding, especially in south Alabama, delayed harvest and damaged crops, resulting in 13 counties being declared primary disaster areas. There had been indications since last spring, based on climate models and surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, that an El Niño climate phase was forming, says Ortiz, whose research focuses on the impact of weather and climate on agriculture. “Sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific that are warmer than normal are the main indication of changes toward the El Niño phase,” she says. And this hasn’t been just any El Niño. Dubbed by many the “Godzilla” El Niño, it has proven to be one of the most powerful on record, bringing once-in-a-generation storms throughout the world. El Niño, La Niña and Neutral are the three climate phases of the El Niño– Southern Oscillation, or ENSO. In the Southeast, the ENSO phenomena affect rainfall and temperatures during the fall, winter and spring months, with an El Niño occurring every two
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to seven years. Winters and springs are wetter and cooler than normal in El Niño years but drier and warmer than normal in La Niña years. La Niña summers are often rainier and cooler than El Niño summers because of increased tropical storm activity, which is usually suppressed by El Niño. Ortiz didn’t have to look far back in history to see when a strong El Niño severely impacted fall harvest and planting activities. “In the fall of 2009, farmers in the Southeast had many difficulties harvesting peanuts and cotton, and some cotton was even harvested the following January,” she says. “The strongest El Niño on record prior to this one occurred in 1997.” In the Southeast, especially for the southernmost counties of Alabama and Georgia, an El Niño means rainfall above normal and temperatures below average. These weather conditions also have an impact on planting wheat and other cover crops, Ortiz says. “We recommended that growers plant their wheat and cover crops as early as possible this past fall because field conditions were expected to get wetter the further along we got into the year,” she says. “If it’s too wet, getting a good stand becomes an issue. Some producers increased their seeding rates to compensate for stand loss.” Usually, El Niño doesn’t last more than one season. La Niña, on the other hand, can last for more than a year. While wheat yields are generally better than average during an El Niño,
farmers in north Alabama may find themselves struggling. Previous research conducted in the Southeast has shown that El Niño weather events are not very favorable for corn, assuming the climate phase continues into the spring of next year, Ortiz says. “The forecast says El Niño will be dissipating toward the spring of 2016,” she says. “The worstcase scenario for corn is if El Niño remains into next spring and perhaps throughout next summer.” In addition to her work exploring how rainfall and temperature affect crop yields by influencing plant growth and development rates, Ortiz also is a member of the Southeast Climate Extension project, a large-scale partnership of six universities across the Southeast that helps farmers in the region cope with climate variability and change. Since May 2011, university member institutions have been working to develop an information system, along with decision-making tools and management strategies, to minimize the risks posed to Southeastern agriculture by extreme weather events, climate change and climate variability. The Southeast Climate Extension project team is made up of individuals from Auburn, from the universities of Florida and Georgia and from Clemson, Florida A&M and Florida State universities.
N OVA K B O O K T R AC E S U. S . FA R M P O L I C Y H I S TO RY BY JA MIE CRE A MER
Jim Novak didn’t set out to write a textbook extoling the virtues of the nation’s complex agricultural policy, but he wasn’t intent on trashing it, either. He simply wanted to help citizens understand the history behind U.S. farm bills and how they have evolved through the decades. That’s what you’ll find in Novak’s “Agricultural Policy in the United States: Evolution and Economics,” a 258-page book that traces the foundation of this country’s farm policy from its colonial roots to the present and why it is necessary. The book includes historical examples of agricultural policy, such as the English Corn Law and ancient Roman food and agricultural reform, to illustrate how world governments throughout history have found farm policy vital to sustain a functioning agricultural system. Novak, professor emeritus in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology at Auburn University, taught agricultural policy at Auburn for a decade and says that’s what convinced him to produce the book, which he co-authored with fellow agricultural economists James Pease at Virginia Tech and Larry Sanders at
Oklahoma State University. “The book consists of what I consider necessary content for such a course,” he says. “I have collaborated with Drs. Pease and Sanders on several projects and issues related to ag policy, so they were natural collaborators for the book.” Using economic concepts, Novak and team analyze and interpret the political and economic consequences of farming rules and regulations through the centuries. The authors explain the processes used to establish U.S. agricultural policies, the structure and function of government agencies charged with developing and implementing those policies, and the specific evolution of farm policy, from the early 20th century to the Agricultural Act of 2014. They also describe the evolution and economic impacts of specific policies in past farm bills. “When most Americans hear ‘farm bill,’ they think of corn and cotton and other major commodities, and they tend to have negative opinions about them because media coverage on farm legislation tends to be negative,” Novak says. “In ‘Agricultural Policy,’ we present arguments for and
CO L L E G E S E E S 255 F I R S T-T I M E D O N O R S I N 2015 BY JOSH WOODS
The year 2015 brought with it not only a record level of giving to the College of Agriculture, at $15.2 million, but a high number of new donors as well. Of the 1,249 individuals who gave to the college last year, 255 were first-time donors. Paul Patterson, dean of the college, acknowledges the growing significance of philanthropic gifts. “We are deeply appreciative to every person who has generously given,” he says. “Each year, gifts of any amount become more and more important to the advancement and to the future of our college.” College of Agriculture development director Mark Wilton agrees.
“It’s exciting to see so many new people investing in their college,” Wilton says. “The work of this college impacts so many people, and we know that impact will grow as more individuals step up to support the great work that is being done here.” 2015 gifts are being applied toward a variety of initiatives, including student scholarship support and academic and research facilities, Wilton said. FO R M O R E I N FO RM ATI O N V I S IT agriculture.auburn.edu/because, or contact the College of Agriculture’s Development office at 334-844-1475.
J IM N OVA K writes on agricultural policy.
against common tools of federal farm regulations policy, but we do so solely to help readers understand the issues.” The historical background the book provides may be as important as the economics principles the authors cover. “As they say,” Novak says, “those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.” “Agricultural Policy” is available online in paperback, hardback and Kindle formats.
WAY S T O G I V E Giving opportunities available to College of Agriculture supporters include: CHECKS M ADE PAYABLE TO THE AU FOUNDATION AND M AILED TO THE OFFICE OF DE VELOPMENT CREDIT C ARD GIF TS M ADE ONLINE:
agriculture.auburn.edu/because GIF TS OF STOCK OR SECURITIES M ATCHING CORPOR ATE GIF TS
GIF TS OF PROPERT Y OR RE AL ESTATE PL ANNED GIF TS , SUCH A S LIFE INSUR ANCE POLICIES , RE TIREMENT PL ANS OR BEQUESTS
Auburn University College of Agriculture Office of Development 107 Comer Hall, Auburn AL 36849 334-844-1475
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CO L L E G E TO A D D B AC H E L O R ’ S D E G R E E P R O G R A M I N A P P L I E D B I OT E C H N O L O G Y BY JA MIE CRE A MER
For the first time in 18 years, the College of Agriculture’s Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology is set to offer Auburn University undergraduates a bachelor of science degree program starting fall semester 2016. The new applied biotechnology degree program, which the Alabama Commission on Higher Education still must approve, will be an interdisciplinary and interdepartmental program administered by the entomology and plant pathology department. “A faculty group from several of our
departments in the college will oversee the program and offer input on the curriculum, and faculty from different departments will teach all of the courses, so it is a College of Agriculture degree option,” Paul Patterson, dean of college, says. By comparison, the bachelor’s degree in environmental science is administered by the Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences, but the colleges of Sciences and Mathematics and Engineering also have input into the curriculum, and their faculty members teach some of
the courses. The new applied biotechnology degree program will be the first of its kind at an Alabama university. Nannan Liu, entomology and plant pathology professor and department head, says the new degree is in response to the rapid growth of the biotechnology industry. The curriculum has been designed to prepare students for graduate studies or for professional careers in such fields as biotechnology, agriculture and pharmaceutics.
CO M I N G FA L L S E M E S T E R 2016 : U N D E R G R A D UAT E D E G R E E I N FO O D S C I E N C E BY PAU L H O L L I S
The College of Agriculture’s food science program will get a major boost this fall when it changes from an option in poultry science to a full-fledged bachelor of science degree. The new interdisciplinary degree program, approved by Auburn’s Board of Trustees last summer and by the Alabama Commission on Higher Education in December, will be administered by the Department of Poultry Science. “Historically, students have not recognized food science as a scientific field of study or as a career option,” says Auburn food science professor Leonard
THE NE W FO O D SCIE N CE PRO G R A M will be administered by the Department of Poultry Science.
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Bell. “Hopefully, the availability of this new program will inform teachers, guidance counselors, parents and students of the opportunities we have to offer through the B.S. in food science.” Undergraduate enrollment in the current food science option has experienced growth in recent years as global issues related to food safety have resulted in increased employment and research opportunities. The new degree will address strategic areas of food manufacturing and production while also serving as an essential resource of food-related initiatives on campus. Food is a universal requirement, and
the industry providing that food needs competent food science professionals, Bell says. “Consumers expect many things from their food, including health, safety, enjoyment and stability,” he says. “These attributes require understanding the science behind the ingredients, how they interact during processing and storage, potential sources of contamination, methods for preventing contamination, and issues associated with quality perception. “In other words, we need to understand the biology, chemistry and physics of the food, and the B.S. degree in food science will prepare students to address these needs.” Programs such as Auburn’s B.S. in food science are desperately needed, Bell says, to help meet two major challenges facing the food system: feeding the growing global population and sustainability. “Increasing agricultural production alone will not feed the world’s population,” he says. “Postharvest food loss, food waste and consumer fears of technological advances must be addressed. Processing perishable commodities into stable food products is an important function of food science.”
$2 . 5 M I L L I O N G I F T B E N E F I T S N E W P O U LT RY C E N T E R , H O N O R S I N D U S T RY P I O N E E R C H A R L E S C . M I L L E R J R . BY JA MIE CRE A MER
A new, state-of-the-art poultry science research and education complex to be constructed on the north campus of Auburn University over the next two years will be named in honor of a forward-thinking poultry industry pioneer, thanks to an Atlanta, Ga., couple’s $2.5 million commitment to the university. Charles C. “Buddy” Miller III and wife Pinney Allen made the gift to honor Miller’s parents, Charles C. Miller Jr. and Virginia Doke Miller, by naming the new center the Charles C. Miller Jr. Poultry Research and Education Center. Auburn’s Board of Trustees approved the name at its meeting in February. Miller Jr., a 1940 College of Agriculture graduate with a degree in agricultural business and economics, was a successful Alabama poultry entrepreneur in Piedmont whose innovations in contract growing, feed milling, breeding and hatchery operations led to major gains in broiler production and efficiency and laid the foundation for today’s modern poultry industry. He passed away in 2002. A TRUE TR AILBL A ZER
“Over his 50-year career, Charles Miller developed the methodologies that transformed the poultry industry from a small individual-farmer operation to what it is today—a more than $50 billion industry that feeds both the U.S. and the world,” says Don Conner, professor and head of the Department of Poultry Science at Auburn. “Mr. Miller’s venerable career and nontraditional approach to the poultry industry parallel what we instill in Auburn poultry science students: to be bold, far-sighted thinkers who are not afraid to challenge conventional approaches in pursuit of solutions,” Conner says. “His foresight shaped the poultry industry and helped the industry grow to become the top agribusiness in Alabama.” In making the gift, Miller’s son and daughter-in-law, both Harvard
graduates now retired from successful careers, said their entire family is grateful to Auburn for the opportunity to name what will be a world-class poultry research complex in honor and in memory of the late Mr. and Mrs. Miller. “My father would be proud of how far the poultry industry has advanced since its humble beginnings,” Buddy Miller said, “And, he would be excited that Auburn will continue to play a leading role in the industry’s future.” OUT WITH THE OLD
The Miller Poultry Center will replace the College of Agriculture’s existing Poultry Research Farm Unit, which was built more than 40 years ago off South College Street on land that now borders the Auburn Research Park. The new facilities will be situated in north Auburn beside the $7.1 million Alabama Poultry and Egg Association Building and Auburn University Feed Mill and Animal Nutrition Center. Construction of the Miller Poultry Center will be in two phases, with a projected total cost of $4 million. Phase one will consist of two poultry houses, one with 9,600 square feet and the other at 13,440, and a 16,500-square-foot facility to house Auburn’s National Poultry Technology Center. Construction is expected to begin May 1, with the facilities expected to be fully functional by fall 2016. Miller and Allen’s philanthropic commitment will cover the cost of the project’s second phase, which Auburn trustees sanctioned in November. Included in that phase will be two additional multipurpose houses, both with 13,440 square feet, and an 8,000-square-foot administration and classroom building. Phase two still must be approved administratively, but Conner said construction is expected to begin in early 2017. Auburn’s Department of Poultry Science already is recognized nationally and internationally for excellence in
CH A RLE S C . MILLE R J R .
research, teaching and outreach, but the Miller Poultry Center will take the program to the next level, said Arthur Appel, who was serving as interim dean of the College of Agriculture when the gift was made. “These facilities will significantly advance Auburn’s standing as a global leader in the field of poultry science and will allow the Department of Poultry Science to realize its vision of becoming the premier poultry research and education program in the country, if not the world,” Appel said. C A MPAIGN GOAL S
This gift supports the College of Agriculture’s efforts to raise $51.4 million through “Because This is Auburn—A Campaign for Auburn University,” a comprehensive $1 billion fundraising effort in support of Auburn’s students, faculty, programs and facilities. In addition to raising $10 million for facilities such as this, the college’s top campaign priorities include increasing the availability of scholarships for Agriculture students by 50 percent and endowing at least 13 new professorships. Learn more about the College of Agriculture’s campaign priorities and overarching campaign efforts at because.auburn.edu/ag. For more information on the Miller Poultry Center, or to follow construction progress, visit poul.auburn.edu/charlesmiller-jr-poultry-center/.
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connection BY K ATIE JACKSON
E ATING LO C A L
L O C A L LY G R O W N F O O D S C A N F I L L C O M M U N I T Y N E E D S Just a couple or three generations ago, back when most families grew their own food, eating local was a way of life. Today, getting our hands on locally grown food is a little tougher than walking out the back door to the garden or henhouse, though fresh, locally grown products are increasingly available thanks to the expanding number of farmers who sell them direct from their farms and at roadside stands, farmers markets, local restaurants and even grocery stores. Making it easier for farmers and consumers alike to support local food and finding ways that local food can address—maybe even solve—other food-related problems are all important ways to keep that supply coming, and that’s just what Auburn rural sociologist Michelle Worosz is hoping her research will help achieve. Worosz, an associate professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, has been studying local food and alternative, small-scale agriculture since her days as a graduate student at Michigan State University. Through the years, she has researched such issues as identifying barriers that
limit growth and profitability for smalland medium-sized farmers, assessing the effects of the Deep Horizon oil spill on local Gulf Coast seafood industries, gauging consumer perceptions of commodities such as locally raised beef, and determining the prevalence of hunger and food insecurity in Alabama. Results of Worosz’s studies help identify not only the challenges faced by those who produce and consume fresh foods, but also the myriad possibilities that this renaissance of local eating, which began in earnest in the 1990s and shows no signs of abating, offers to society. She firmly believes that, while local food will never replace large-scale food production, it is an important part of the food system that can fill niches of consumer demand and societal needs.
FEEDING THE HUNGRY Among those niches is making communities more food secure by providing residents access to fresh, safe, healthy and affordable food—a need that is great in Alabama, not just in poorer rural parts of the state but even in more affluent communities such as the Auburn-Opelika area.
O N C A MPU S and throughout the Auburn community, a number of eateries are making locally grown foods a priority.
It is a need that Martha Henk, director of the Food Bank of East Alabama, sees every day as her organization works to provide fresh, healthful foods to the hungry. Though the food bank distributes a wide range of foodstuffs—processed and prepackaged as well as fresh—having access to fresh produce is vital to its clients, especially in light of such health issues as obesity and diabetes, which are so prevalent in the state. “Our clients are expressing more and more interest in having fresh produce,” Henk says. To meet that demand, the food bank relies heavily on donations from local grocery stores and food distributors, but those products aren’t necessarily locally produced. Access to truly local products is available on a smaller scale, however, from sources such as the Auburn University Community Garden and the Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences’ Food Bank Garden and through the generosity of local gardeners. “Quite often during the summer, we find a bag of produce on the doorknob of the food bank,” Henk says, noting how deeply her clients appreciate those treasures. “While locally grown foods are still a relatively small part of what we distribute, they represent a significant part,” she says. “Yes, it’s small-scale, but if more people become involved, it can add up and have a big impact.” Another issue that Worosz believes local foods can address is the strengthening of rural communities and economies. “If you can help to support local growers, that means more people are employed and more dollars stay at
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FRE S H FO O D ITE MS purchased from growers and producers across the state are always in the spotlight at Auburn’s popular on-campus eatery, Plains2Plate. Campus dining director Glenn Loughridge says students love the concept of eating locally and the higher quality of the products.
home in local communities,” she says. Beth Hornsby — who along with her husband, Josh, an Auburn horticulture alumnus, established Hornsby Farms in Macon County three years ago — says their customer base is growing for a number of reasons, including an increasing desire among consumers to know where their food comes from. “People are seeking out more local foods,” she says. But knowing their purchases support local farmers is also important to many of the Hornsbys’ customers. “It will continue to be one of the most important purchasing decisions a consumer makes and one that benefits everyone in our community,” she adds. That customer base for local foods —people who are often referred to as “locavores”—has also expanded to a new generation of consumers: college students. That young demographic is increasingly requesting more local food and, in the process, is driving innovations in campus food service programs nationwide and at Auburn.
TH E N E X T G E N E R ATI O N
Glenn Loughridge, Auburn University’s campus dining director, has personally seen the interest in
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local foods blossom in his four years of working at Auburn, and he’s working hard to meet that demand by offering more and more local foods at campus dining venues. Loughridge, who is a passionate supporter of local foods himself, says students can now find local food options at several campus eateries including Plains2Plate, a restaurant that offers a menu chock full of healthful, fresh, local foods. “Students love the local food options,” says Loughridge, who believes that, while many students are drawn to these foods because they want to eat sustainably, they also simply like the taste of local food. “The higher quality of local foods really shines through,” he says. That drives him to always be on the lookout for more local food sources. Currently, Loughridge buys local products from growers and producers across the state, including the Hornsbys, and from one source very close to home— Auburn’s College of Agriculture. Among those Auburn-produced products are tilapia—used in the ever-popular Plains2Plate fish tacos— and cucumbers, both of which are grown through a School of Fisheries,
Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences aquaponics project; eggs and chicken from the Department of Poultry Science; and pork from Auburn University’s Lambert-Powell Meats Laboratory. “We love doing it because we feel like it is a chance to highlight what we are doing at Auburn University as an agricultural college,” Loughridge says. But he also loves the fact that the Auburn-procured food items are the freshest of the fresh. “We call it ‘hyper-local,’” he says. “For example, we have Auburn pork that has traveled maybe two miles in its entire lifespan. “We can’t run the entire campus on local food,” he says, “but we try to partner wherever we can, and we are excited to have this opportunity.” Loughridge also notes that, while some of the locally grown options are more expensive to procure, others aren’t, and that allows him to balance out the costs and keep prices affordable. It is that interest in local foods on campuses that led Worosz to become involved in a new local food study looking at the barriers that local growers may face in selling their products to institutional food service providers.
AU B U RN RU R A L SO CIO LO G Y A S SO CIATE PRO FE S SO R Michelle Worosz is studying the challenges that face local producers and consumers who want to eat locally.
S T U D E NT S U RV E Y
As part of the study, she and Auburn agricultural economist and professor Norbert Wilson, a colleague in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, will survey students at Auburn and at other colleges and universities across the state to learn more about students’ perceptions of local food, their willingness to buy it and other factors that influence the feasibility of small producers tapping into this emerging market. “We hope the results of this survey will help identify potential opportunities for local producers to develop new markets, such as colleges and schools, where they can sell their products,” Worosz says. She is also part of another study that is looking at the hurdles affecting Alabama-raised beef. For her part in that study, Worosz and post-doctoral research fellow Amy Telligman are assessing consumer perceptions about locally raised beef, including its safety, an issue that concerns many consumers and that Worosz sees as yet another food-related problem that local foods may be able to address.
According to Worosz, little is known about the possibility of foodborne illnesses associated with locally sourced meat, but should contamination occur, it may be easier to trace a problem back to its source because it is not distributed and sold nationally. In addition, local producers have extra incentive to make sure the food they sell is safe: “Local farmers have a more personal connection with consumers than large-scale industrial food companies,” Worosz says. “They live in the same communities as their customers. They go to church together. Their kids go to the same schools.” The results of the beef study not only may help identify ways that producers can better market their products, but also increase awareness of the benefits of local food among consumers. In truth, this and other studies are really just a beginning. “This is a complicated issue,” Worosz says. “In the long run, we want everyone
to have access to food that is culturally appropriate, nutritionally adequate and safe, but first we have to understand what the landscape of ‘local’ is in Alabama.” Through her studies, Worosz hopes that local foods can become an increasingly important part of that larger food landscape, and though she realizes that local foods are not a fix for all things and all people, she does want to make it easier for farmers and consumers alike to have local foods as an option. “I want there to be an avenue for those who want to be involved,” she says.
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the top BY PAUL L . HOLLIS
RESE A RCH IMPAC T
A A E S R E S E A R C H E R S P U L L O U T A L L T H E S T O P S I N A L O N G -T E R M S T U D Y FOCUSED ON MAXIMIZING CROP YIELDS. A team of Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station researchers is investigating just how high crop yields can go in a new initiative that aims to replicate the outstanding yields being achieved by some of the nation’s leading row-crop farmers. “Farmers continue to make recordbreaking yields each year, and our research is focused on keeping pace with and exceeding those efforts,” says Dale Monks, AAES director of outlying units. “We have access to the best unbiased information available, and we have the technology and resources to put that information to work for our producers,” Monks says. In recent years, crop yields throughout the U.S. have steadily climbed to previously unheard-of levels, with 300-plus-bushel corn, 100-bushel soybeans and 1,500-pound cotton becoming commonplace among top producers.
If that’s where farmers want to be, then that’s where the research should be taking them, says Greg Pate, director of the E.V. Smith Research Center in central Alabama. Pate, along with his counterparts at the Tennessee Valley and Gulf Coast research and extension centers, embarked last fall on the multiyear research project that will integrate all aspects of crop production to achieve maximum yields. “Our center-pivot irrigation systems allow us to do variable-rate irrigation, seeding rate and fertilization, so it’s ideal for conducting such an experiment on a large scale,” Pate says. “We can take what we’re finding in our small plots and expand it to plots that are at least an acre in size, instead of
the traditional 25 feet and four rows found on most experiment stations.” University and experiment station crop research is often criticized because the equipment being used, the size of the plots and the inputs do not match what is being done on actual farms. But the current initiative should answer those concerns, with the AAES making a substantial investment in equipment and technology at its 15 outlying research units across the state.
DONE TO SCALE
“We’ve heard that what we do is not relevant to a farmer’s operation or is not scalable,” Pate says. “Much of it has to do with soil type, but management also plays a large role. “These trials are on scale, and we’ve got the same equipment as producers do,” he says. “So if we can do it in our plots, then they can do it on their farms. We’re going across multiple soil types, so it’s a real-world scenario. This will give credence to our research. If I make 300-bushel corn or 100-bushel soybeans, they’ll believe it.” Achieving high yield goals has been made easier due to new crop varieties,
Malcomb Pegues, director of the Gulf Coast Research and Extension Center in Fairhope, says. “Seed companies are developing varieties for corn, cotton and soybeans that will produce higher yields than we’ve seen in the past,” Pegues says. “Also, we now have the technology to control inputs and to collect data about these inputs. This also raises the bar on yield.” Monks concedes that the high yield goals probably won’t be reached in the first year of the initiative, but he expects success at least by the third year. “We started working on our soil fertility foundation this past fall,” Monks says. “Once that is done, we can focus on variety selection, irrigation scheduling and other production practices.”
A M B I T I O U S G OA L S
The yield goals are lofty but are certainly achievable under the right conditions, Pate says. “I’ve averaged 1,500 pounds of cotton only one time at our station,” he says. “I
G REG PATE , D IREC TO R O F THE E .V. SMITH RE S E A RCH CE NTE R , and his counterparts at AAES
research and extension centers in the Tennessee Valley and on the Gulf Coast, have embarked on a multiyear research project integrating all aspects of crop production to achieve maximum yields.
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A L A BA M A AG RICU LTU R A L E XPE RIME NT S TATIO N RE S E A RCHE R S are working to replicate the
outstanding yields being achieved by some of the nation’s top row-crop farmers. had a test last year that averaged 1,600 pounds, but that was unusual. So we’ve set some ambitious goals for ourselves.” Achieving high yields in soybeans is even more challenging because there are few recommendations for irrigating the crop. “We’re making some inferences based on general observations, so we need to start by identifying the proper irrigation rate,” Pate says. “The problem with soybeans is, if we irrigate early, they’ll make vines and not beans. This research might tell us if we need to be planting full-season, fullermaturing varieties in Alabama.” As for corn production, Pate will be increasing plant populations at E.V. Smith to help achieve high yields. “This past year, we went with the highest plant population we’ve ever tried at 36,000 per acre,” Pate says. “This spring, I want to go with about 45,000, on twin rows, on 36 inches. To make 300 bushels of corn, we’ll have to apply 360 pounds of nitrogen with split applications.” Economics also will be considered in the trials to ensure that maximizing inputs to achieve maximum yields is cost-effective. “If a soil is capable of making only 300 bushels per acre, there’s no sense in spending money to make 350 bushels,” Pate says.
S C I E N C E - B AC K E D A DV I C E And while maximizing inputs during a time of low commodity prices might be a hard sale to farmers, Pegues believes the research will provide valuable recommendations. “If we can show what it takes to
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make the highest yields, then maybe producers will see how they can improve their production practices or learn about techniques to make them more efficient,” Pegues says. “The technology available today will play a major role in the future of farming, and we have to find a way to put all of this information to work” Historically, the most limiting factor to crop production in Alabama has been water, and irrigation is a main focus of the high-yield experiment. Yields in the state usually average less than those in surrounding states despite, Alabama’s plentiful rainfall and other water sources. One goal of the extensive study is to recalibrate irrigation recommendations for all Alabama crops because current guidelines are based on information from other states.
I R R I G AT I O N M I T I G AT I O N
“Our producers will make 75 bushels of corn one year and 150 bushels the next,” Pate says. “It all depends on rainfall, and the best way to mitigate that is with irrigation. We’ll be using variable-rate irrigation technology in these trials, along with soil moisture sensors so we don’t over-apply.” The center pivot in the study at E.V. Smith irrigates approximately 50 acres, with each span covering a significant area. There will be from 3½ to 12 acres in each experimental block. Cotton, corn and soybeans will be planted under each center pivot at the same time. “We can turn the pivot off and on and change the precise rate, varying the application every two degrees of rotation and then the width of the
zone,” Pate said. “We planted the fields in the arcs of the center pivots so we get perfect alignment in those zones.” While Alabama’s Gulf Coast receives a hefty average of 65 inches of rain annually, Pegues says it doesn’t always come in a timely manner for farmers in the region. “We’ll be using soil moisture sensors to help schedule irrigation and to be more efficient, but also to ensure that we’re applying adequate water to the crop,” Pegues says. The use of precision agriculture also will be integral to the high-yield research. On the Gulf Coast, Pegues will be combining new technology with results from past experiments. “We now have the ability to do variable-rate fertilizer applications, and we’ve installed a seeding rate control on our planter,” he says. “Our goal is to utilize this technology along with yield monitor data. “We’ll also use our past research on disease control to apply fungicides that will offer the best potential for yield increases.”
DATA- G ATHE RING DRONE S
Unmanned aircraft systems also will be utilized in the research. “We’ll superimpose some treatments and look at everything from each layer, from the soil to the plant, what we see above it, and then correlate back to yield and other factors,” Pate says. While the high-yield trials officially began this past fall, preparations have been ongoing since last spring. “We planted corn on all of our acres last year because we knew we needed organic matter,” Pate says. “Our soils are silt loam or silty clay loam, and the organic matter will give us a better environment for high yields.” Researchers will be following an intensive crop rotation for the next 10 years, providing a firm basis for the trials. The AAES high-yield project is more than just a one-time initiative, Monks says. “Our goal is for this higher level of management to become the norm.”
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dreams BY JA MIE CRE A MER
MOV ER A ND SH A KER
AUBURN RESEARCH FELLOW ESTHER NGUMIBI’S UNCANNY SUCCESS IN TURNING HER DREAMS INTO REALITIES IS DRIVEN BY A PASSION FOR GIVING BACK TO HER NATIVE VILL AGE IN KENYA AND INSPIRING YOUNG GIRLS THERE TO REACH FOR THE STARS. Here’s how dictionaries tend to define a dreamer: one who lives in a world of fantasy; one who is impractical and unrealistic; a person whose ideas or projects are considered audacious or highly speculative; someone guided more by ideals than by practical considerations. In the case of Esther Ngumbi, those definitions are wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. True, Ngumbi can have some mighty wild dreams, but she also has a remarkable track record of turning the most seemingly far-fetched visions into realities. Especially in Mabafweni, the impoverished village in Kwale County, Kenya, where she was born and raised.
G O I N G H OM E Here’s a for instance. Back in October, Ngumbi, a 2011 Auburn University Ph.D. alumnus in entomology who now is a postdoctoral plant pathology researcher in the College of Agriculture, made the 8,400-mile journey back to her native village for two glorious events. The first of those was the grand-opening celebration of Mabafweni’s firstever library—a prime example of an Ngumbi dream coming true. “There was a great need for a library, an essential space where students and all members of the community could gather to explore, interact, imagine and quench their thirst for knowledge,” she says. “Through books, I want people, especially young Kenyan students, to be inspired to reach for the stars.” In a village of 22,000 people whose average income is $3 a day, having a
library is a big deal, as was evidenced by the mass turnout for the ribboncutting ceremony. “There was a huge crowd, an incredible crowd, of happy students, parents and community members,” Ngumbi says. “The excitement level of having a library facility was high, way-up-over-the-roof high.” The library exists because, as Ngumbi readily admits, she has a tough time keeping her dreams to herself. “When I have a dream, I can’t stop talking about it,” Ngumbi says. “Everybody knows what I want to do.” And in the library’s case, sharing her vision paid off in the form of an unexpected $10,000 grant from the nonprofit group 101 Heroes. That gift, combined with other donations of money and materials, covered construction costs for the 1,100-square-foot, cement-block library in Mabafweni. As for the 2,000-plus books and textbooks on the shelves when it opened, Ngumbi went from department to department and organization to organization on the Auburn campus to round those up.
CU LTI VATI N G YO U N G M I N D S The library, incidentally, is part of Faulu Academy, a primary school that was—what?—another of Ngumbi’s dreams. That one began at Auburn’s August 2011 commencement ceremony, during which Ngumbi became the first—and only— individual from her community to be awarded a doctorate degree. “The day I received my Ph.D. at Auburn, I started thinking of the
many children in my community who had the potential to be scientists like me but lacked the opportunity,” she says. “I told myself then I would do whatever it takes to give these children opportunities to break the poverty barrier by getting an education and developing their potential to the fullest.” In 2012, she and her parents, both retired schoolteachers, opened Faulu Academy in a mud hut with 10 students. Today, Faulu—which means “success” in Swahili—has a blocksand-mortar building and 94 students in grades one through six. Grades seven and eight will be added in the next couple of years. Unlike the library, Faulu is not Mabafweni’s only school. “There are other public schools in the area,” Ngumbi says, “but we started Faulu Academy because we wanted to give students the very best there can be.” So, now that she’s realized her dreams for an excellent primary school in her village and a library that serves the entire community, what’s next? A science lab, of course. Which brings us to the second major event that drew Ngumbi home: her wedding, one dream the 38-yearold had never allowed herself to have. But less than a week after the colossal community-wide celebration of the new library, in a small outdoor ceremony at the Swahili Beach Resort on the Kenyan Coast, she married long-time significant other Alex
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NE WLY WE DS Esther Ngumbi and Alex Mutiso enjoy a quiet moment following their October 2015 wedding ceremony at the Swahili Beach Resort on the Indian Ocean.
Mutiso, a graphic designer from Atlanta. Her parents, Harrison and Bertha, walked her down the aisle. “It was a magical day, every second of it, the wedding and the reception,” Ngumbi says. “We started around 3 p.m. and did not end until the wee hours of the morning. We did not want it to stop.”
A B R I D E ’ S B U C K E T LI S T But what does Ngumbi’s wedding have to do with a science laboratory? Well, when the two got engaged last summer, they quickly posted their bridal registry online. It consisted of a single request of friends and other well-wishers: In lieu of wedding presents, please help us build a science lab in Mabafweni “so as to inspire a generation of scientists.” The still-active registry, titled “a
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E S THE R N G UMB I poses with a group of lollipop-licking students enrolled at Mabafweni’s Faulu Academy.
to-be bride’s bucket list,” is housed on the popular crowdfunding site FundProVo. Within days of the site’s launching, the uplifting story of the couple’s alternative wedding registry had gone viral. A feature in a popular international fashion magazine for women—OK, it was Cosmopolitan— carried the subhead, “This woman’s wedding registry will inspire you to be a better person.” While the unusual registry generated a great deal of publicity, the exposure didn’t translate into mass contributions. As of late February, donations totaled $3,130, far short of
the $10,000 goal, and the fundraising effort officially ends March 31. That will not mean death to Ngumbi’s latest dream, however. Make no mistake, the science lab will happen. It’s too important not to. “The lack of science laboratories robs our students of the opportunity to discover how exciting science can be,” she says. “The lab will allow our young students to experience the magic of science and develop an interest in it so that I will not be the only Ph.D. in my village. There will be many more.”
ME MB E R S O F O NE O F THE WOME N ’ S G RO U P S participating in Oyeska Greens make quick work of weeding their greenhouse-grown bell pepper transplants. In the two years since Esther Ngumbi founded Oyeska Greens in Kwale County, Kenya, members have realized substantial bell pepper and tomato yield increases and have learned how to successfully market their produce at a nearby farmers market.
NGUMBI STARTUP IS IMPROVING FARMING , QUALIT Y OF LIFE ON KENYA’S COAST BY JA MIE CRE A MER
While pursuing her Ph.D. in entomology at Auburn University in 2011, Esther Ngumbi (in-GOOM-bee) studied the use of parasitoid wasps to control major insect pests in corn. Now, as a postdoctoral researcher in the College of Agriculture’s plant pathology program, she is focused on understanding the mechanisms by which “good” bacteria in the soil can produce improved growth, insect resistance and stress tolerance in agricultural crops. The objective of both projects: sustainable food production in countries around the globe. As a native of the Mabafweni village on Kenya’s south coast, she is especially concerned about the sad state of agriculture there, and she is determined to transform farming and lives in her home community and her home county of Kwale. That’s why she founded Oyeska Greens two years ago. She describes the Oyeska Greens initiative, which she launched with her brother Kennedy, as “a startup venture committed to revolutionizing agriculture along the Kenyan Coast.” “We want to empower smallholder African farmers, most of them women, with the knowledge to succeed and to show them, this is what it takes to succeed versus what we’ve been doing here for generations,” she says. “My mission is to help modernize farming practices, to show these farmers that they can do more if they work together and to transform the Kenyan Coast into an agricultural hub.” These goals are based on personal experience. Although both of Ngumbi’s parents were teachers, their pay was meager. The only food they could provide
for their five children was what they grew on their 10-acre farm. “But we never knew the health of our soils, and many years, since we are rain-fed agriculture, we would plant all our seed, and then it would never rain,” she says. “We would put out lots of chemicals, too, but we never thought that the products we were applying might not even be what was needed. “And most of the time, we got nothing, or very, very little.”
M E A S U R E D S U CC E S S In Oyeska Greens’ first year, Ngumbi and her brother convinced 18 Kwale County farmers to participate in the project and trained them in greenhouse production, modern production practices, technology, smart marketing, hand irrigation from shared wells and the value of soil testing. By the end of the first growing season, Oyeska Greens farmers had
S E V E R A L G ROWE R S participating in Oyeska Greens listen intently as Ngumbi explains the science of farming.
collectively harvested more than 3 tons of bell peppers and more than 4 tons of tomatoes, most of which they actually sold at a farmers market several miles away. Collectively, the marketed crops generated close to $1,000 a year in the first two seasons. In Mabafweni, the average per capita income is $3 per day. Learn more about Oyeska Greens at www.oyeskagreens.com. Ngumbi is a motivational speaker and has received numerous prestigious honors, most recently being named a Food Security Fellow of the Aspen Institute and a 2016 Clinton Global Initiative University Mentor for Agriculture. In 2011, One World Action, a London charity fighting for a world free from poverty and oppression named her to its list of “100 Women: the unseen powerful women who change the world.”
BY M ARY CATHERINE GASTON
ON C A MPUS
O N E S T U D E N T G R O U P I N T H E D E PA R T M E N T O F A N I M A L S C I E N C E S C R E AT E S O P P O R T U N I T I E S F O R I T S M E M B E R S T H R O U G H A C AT E R I N G B U S I N E S S T H AT S E R V E S T H E A U B U R N C A M P U S A N D C O M M U N I T Y. Meet Mitchell Henry. The grandson of a Lawrence County cattle farmer and a third-generation Auburn student, Henry is a senior in animal sciences production from the Montgomery County community of Pintlala, where cows easily outnumber people. When he graduates this spring, he’ll head to Moulton to work alongside his granddad in the stocker operation Henry hopes to one day run. Meet Maiya Clausen. Growing up in a suburb just outside Chicago, she knew virtually nothing about Auburn University until she arrived in town for a campus visit as a high school student. Her grandfather, a dairy farmer who passed away before she was born, was the closest connection Clausen had to agriculture before beginning classes on Ag Hill in fall of 2012. Graduating this spring in meat science/muscle foods, she hopes to complete her master’s degree and one day work in research and development for a large food products company. He wears cowboy boots and listens to country music. She likes playing video games and sports a lip ring. As different as these two may be, they make a great team when it comes to catering. That’s right: catering. And believe it or not, it’s one thing they do an awful lot of.
A BONA FIDE BUSINESS As officers in Auburn’s chapter of Collegiate Cattlemen and Cattlewomen—Henry is president and Clausen is co-director of catering— each plays a large part in the full-scale catering business the student group has run for more than 15 years. “The students do everything, from
MITCHE LL HE NRY
Senior, Animal Sciences taking the orders to cooking the food to cleaning up after it’s served,” says Christy Bratcher, a professor in the Department of Animal Sciences and the club’s—and catering service’s— adviser. “They work hard, and I can always count on them to pull through and make things happen even when they are tired and have other things they need to do.” That hard work adds weight to the heavy loads carried by these full-time students, who not only are enrolled in academically challenging degree programs but many of whom also hold part-time jobs. Catering an average of 40 to 50 events per year, each involving requiring from six to 15 hours of prep time alone, the students spend hours on end at the LambertPowell Meats Lab, where the majority
M A I YA CL AU S E N
Senior, Animal Sciences of the prep work is done. Each member of the club is required to participate in catering activities whenever possible. All the hard work does pay off, however. The profit the club makes from catering as well as its annual Christmas sausage box sale helps cover members’ costs to attend the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association conference, which this year was in San Diego.
H E F T Y PR I C E TAG
“We had to work really hard this year because San Diego was really expensive,” Henry says. Even so, all 15 CCC members who attended the 2016 conference in January enjoyed the fruits of their labor when it came time to fork over their money for the trip. For a trip that
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AUBURN ’ S CO LLEG IATE C AT TLE ME N A ND C AT TLE WOME N gather for a group photo at the 2016 National Cattlemen’s Beef Association conference.
cost approximately $3,000 per person, each student was required to pay just a $200 nonrefundable deposit plus any “food and fun” expenses during the cross-country excursion. While California was a dream, the trip is not the most valuable experience these students will take with them from their time as collegiate caterers. “I thought I was organized before I became the co-director [of catering],” says Clausen. “I was wrong. There can always be more organization and preparation. Always.” And that’s not all. “This club definitely prepares the students with some of the collaborative and intrapersonal skills that are required when they get jobs in their future,” Bratcher adds.
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CHIR S TM A S SAU SAG E B OX sales are a popular fundraiser for the club.
Auburn’s chapter caters events of all sizes, but to cut down on fuel expenditures and time away from their studies, they try to limit bookings to within a 30-mile radius of campus. Check out their catering menu online, and to ensure they are available to cater your event, make your reservation as far in advance as possible. While they can make just
about anything work, they like to have at least two weeks’ notice in order to plan around class schedules. F I N D T H E C O L L E G I AT E C AT T L E M E N A N D C AT T L E W O M E N O N L I N E AT: www.auburn.edu/student_info/cattlemen
SUCCESSFUL WOMEN IN AGRICULTURE At left, attendees of the Successful Women in Agricultureâ€™s 2015 Leadership Conference in November smile for the camera before sitting down to a luncheon and Q&A session that will wrap up the half-day gathering. The 50 professional agribusiness women and female College of Agriculture students who participated in the event heard several informative presentations on a range of topics, from tips for balancing work and family life to financial planning to the seven habits of successful females.
FO R MO R E I N FO R M AT I O N :
Amanda L. Martin Student Recruitment & Alumni Relations Coordinator Auburn University College of Agriculture email@example.com Amanda Nims Development Coordinator Auburn University College of Agriculture firstname.lastname@example.org
Successful Women in Agriculture is a donor society within the college composed of women who are thriving professionally in agriculture, agribusiness and related industries. Its chief purpose is to create scholarships for deserving female agriculture majors at Auburn University. For more information about the society and how to join, or for details on the groupâ€™s April 15 luncheon at the Lowder Barn in Ag Heritage Park, visit agriculture.auburn.edu/swa.
R E A L PA R T Y
animals BY M ARY CATHERINE GASTON
S T UDENT SP OTL IG HT
WITH HIS SIGHTS SET ON A CAREER IN EXOTIC ANIMAL VETERINARY MEDICINE, F R E S H M A N P AT R I C K S TA R R H O P E S H I S G R O W I N G C O L L E C T I O N O F A N I M A L S —A N D B U S I N E S S E S — W I L L H E L P H I M R E A C H H I S G O A L S . In a word, Patrick Starr’s résumé is impressive. In addition to taking on one of the College of Agriculture’s most challenging undergraduate degree tracks—poultry science/pre-vet— the 19-year-old freshman is also a successful business owner. And we’re not talking about a lemonade stand. We’re talking a full-scale moneymaking operation. It’s the portable petting zoo called Farmer Brown’s Party Animals that the Lee County resident has been running for the past six years. Starr couldn’t even drive when he purchased his first party animal, a llama, in 2009 and began taking his growing menagerie on the road to birthday parties, educational events and even Christmas nativity scenes. Averaging an event per week since then, Starr is now a seasoned shindig specialist and owner of what is possibly the state’s most impressive collection of exotic animals. It’s enough to tempt a typical teenager to brag. But this is no typical teenager.
school science teacher helped him raise, each furry or feathered friend has a story. And, old soul that he is, Starr is remarkably good at telling them, especially when giving a tour of the Starr family’s farm. “That’s Knucklehead,” he says of a massive silver Brahma bull that saunters toward the fence. “He’s saddle trained.” “You can ride him?” a visitor asks incredulously, though the ringnosed beast does seem to have the temperament of a golden retriever. “If you wanted to,” Starr says, noting that, during the first week of fall 2014 classes at Auburn, Knucklehead spent an afternoon posing for selfies with giggling college students on the lawn of Comer Hall. Starr was then a senior at LeeScott Academy, and the gig was fairly
typical of what his animals do and where they will go.
COM FO R T F I R S T “We have traveled up to 200 miles with the animals before, and we generally advertise that as being as far as we will travel,” he says. “That is about three hours of travel time for the animals. We want to make sure our animals are as comfortable as possible before arriving to customers’ events.” As striking as Knucklehead the bull is, he’s not the most unusual of Starr’s animals. In an adjoining pasture, a camel grazes. Just beyond that, a zebra shares a windy hillside with three chestnut-coated Haflinger horses. Back at the barn, a pair of kangaroos enjoys the warmth of the
N O B R AG ; J U S T FAC T “It pays the bills,” he says stoically. In fact, it does pay the bills—mostly animal feed and property taxes for the portion of his grandfather’s cattle farm on which his animals live. But get the young entrepreneur talking about the animals he’s accumulated, and stoic understatement is quickly replaced by excited recital of each creature’s name and provenance. From curtain-climbing coatimundis that his mom let him bottle feed in the house to a pursesnatching kangaroo that his high
PATRICK S TA RR , freshman in poultry science, is the founder and CEO of Farmer Brown’s Party Animals.
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M AN ’ S BEST FRIEND. While some folks think of their pups as part of the family, Starr feels that way about his kangaroo, Roo, who spent his “toddler” years attending high school alongside Starr.
S TA RR ’ S ZE B R A is a Damara, known for the “shadow” stripes on its hindquarters.
cozy quarters Starr constructed just for them. Its 5-foot-high walls are topped with metal cattle panels that reach to the roof. “You don’t want them getting out,” he says. In addition to these, Starr has potbellied pigs, miniature horses and donkeys, peacocks, turkeys, alpacas, goats, emus, tortoises, Patagonian cavies, the aforementioned coatimundis and one fat-horned Watusi bull.
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Many of Farmer Brown’s Party Animals are creatures the average Alabamian will not see in a lifetime, and that is an inspiration to Starr, who plans to attend vet school and one day operate a safari park. Like any shrewd businessman, he has already done his research and knows the locations and characteristics of the nearest existing parks. Though he knows there is room in the market for this venture, for him, it’s not just about making money. He wants
his park to focus on education and believes it would draw school groups from as far away as Atlanta. In addition to operating a safari park and working as a veterinarian to exotic animals, he has his sights set on expanding his family’s landholdings so he can raise ostrich, bison or elk on the side. “An ostrich can grow 12 inches in a month,” Starr says. “In nine months, you can have an animal that is ready to be butchered, and it’s red meat, very high in protein but very low in cholesterol.” Starr knows his stuff, and if anyone can achieve these unique goals, he’s the guy. Besides Starr himself, no one believes this more strongly than
his dad, Pat, who Starr says has been his greatest help in business so far. According to the elder Starr, his son has proved himself both capable and committed. As an example, he describes his son’s most recent undertaking— Sleepy Hollow Haunted Farm. Consisting of a haunted house, hayride and sorghum maze and employing 75 people, the preHalloween fright fest runs for eight days. Ticket range from $10 for a single attraction to $25 for all three. “He wore himself out with that, but he wouldn’t tell you,” Pat Starr says. When Starr is asked if he will host the haunted farm again this fall, as he begins his sophomore year of college, he and his website confidently confirm that he will. “I want to create something that people will start to look forward to each year, and maybe they’ll keep coming,” he says, and with his eyes ever on the future, he adds, “It will sure help with vet school if they do.”
What could you see at the farm? Though he “adopted” a few animals whose former owners could no longer care for them, Patrick Starr purchased most of the creatures in his collection at exotic live animal auctions. He typically attends two auctions a year, though he often comes away empty-handed. “I go for the experience, not necessarily to buy anything,” he says. “You can learn more from the people that raise the different species than you can reading any book or article online. So, I go to meet new friends that share the same interests as me and enjoy having animals a part of their lives as much as I do.” Here’s a rundown of the large cast of party animals you might see if you visit his Lee County farm on any given day.
4 ALPAC AS
17 FAINTING GOATS
3 R ABBITS
1 NUBIAN GOAT
2 RED K ANGAROOS
1 DROMEDARY C A MEL
HORSES 3 MINIATURE DONKE YS 4 STANDARD DONKE YS 8 QUARTER HORSES 3 TORTOISES 2 PATAGONIAN C AVIES 2 L A MBS 3 EMUS 1 WATUSI BULL
1 C ALF 14 LONGHORN C AT TLE 5 HAFLINGER HORSES 1 ZEBR A 6 PE ACOCKS TOO M ANY CHICKENS , DUCKS AND GEESE TO COUNT 1 VERY PROTEC TIVE BORDER COLLIE NA MED BONNIE
YO U NE V E R KN OW who (or what) you might see during a trip to Starr’s farm.
LEARN MORE ABOUT FARMER BROWN’S PARTY ANIMALS AND FIND STARR’S CONTACT INFORMATION ONLINE AT WWW.FBPARTYANIMALS.COM.
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FA M I LY
tradition BY M ARY CATHERINE GASTON
A ROUND A L A BA M A
FISHE RIE S PIONE E R ’ S SON PUT S SCIENCE TO WORK ON AL ABA M A’ S WATE RS . If you’ve ever crossed paths with Graves Lovell, chances are you remember him. It’s fairly likely he’s the only 6-foot2-inch redhead you’ve ever met, and if not, his trademark mustache—think Magnum, P.I., Auburn edition—renders him quite unforgettable. Of course, there are other reasons you might recall interacting with this College of Ag alum—his encyclopedic knowledge of the state’s aquatic species, his dry wit or his laid-back, don’t-I-know-you-from-somewhere demeanor, to name a few. Or it could be that you remember the excitement in his tone when conversation turned to his work as a district fisheries biologist with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife and Freshwaters Fisheries. When asked to describe this role, Graves boils it down to sound-bite size with the skill of a seasoned politician— “managing, enhancing and protecting the fisheries resources for the people of Alabama”—but ask him to dip into the details, and be prepared for the flood gates to open. It’s obvious he not only takes seriously what he does every day, he also believes in it…and loves it. One would have to love this work to remain enthusiastic about it as long as Graves has. The son of longtime Auburn fisheries professor and world-renowned fish nutritionist Tom Lovell, Graves’ “career” began as a bottle washer in the Swingle Hall lab of professor emeritus David Bayne. Graves was 14. Growing up among the researchers who literally wrote the books on warmwater fisheries did not mean he would spend his undergraduate years in their classrooms. But while completing his bachelor’s degree in wildlife sciences, he did the grunt work for grad students studying under fisheries professor emeritus Mike Maceina. It was enough to inspire him to pursue a master’s degree, and this time, it would be in fisheries management. In 2000, with a master’s under his belt, Graves went to work for a private
pond management company. Six years later, he transitioned to the public sector and his current position with ADCNR. Since then, he’s spent thousands of hours in Alabama’s waters. While most of his work involves—you guessed it—fish, his responsibilities are far from monotonous. On any given day, his to-do list might include leading a workshop for children, certifying an Alabama record catch, identifying an exotic fish snagged somewhere in the state, photographing and cataloguing an aquatic plant species, investigating a fish kill, or electrofishing reservoirs and state lakes. Every once in a while, a project comes along that makes a bigger ripple. While helping private pond owners implement management plans has long been part of the agency’s work, with budget cuts becoming routine in state government, Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries chief Stan Cook foresaw a time when the agency may no longer be able provide this service. And though a handbook, Sportfish Management in Alabama Ponds, was developed decades ago, Graves and others had noticed that it wasn’t quite as effective as in-person consultations. “There has always seemed to be a big disconnect between pond owners reading the literature and actually implementing correctly,” he says. So, in 2008, Graves and fellow fisheries biologist Jay Haffner began turning the handbook into a video series. What they expected to take a couple of years took almost six. But the result is the most comprehensive pond management resource that exists. You might wonder why a state agency is so concerned with the management of private fisheries. First, these small impoundments make up almost a third of the state’s total surface area of water. And they’re not just where most folks catch their first fish—they’re also where fishing first catches most folks. “We feel that well-managed private ponds, at least in Alabama, are instrumental in the recruitment of new
G R AV E S LOV E LL
anglers and even an appreciation of the outdoors,” Graves says. Anglers who have a memorable experience on a private pond typically go on to purchase licenses to fish public waters. And those fishing adventures are major business in Alabama, adding an estimated $1 billion to the state’s economy each year and making recreational fishing one of the state’s most lucrative pastimes. With this in mind, an enormous amount of effort went into the making of the video series, which is available free online or can be requested on DVD from ADCNR. The series is organized into seven “chapters” containing a total of 59 segments, most of which are around two minutes long. Covering every single step of pond management from site selection to crisis control, the series boasts more than 27,000 views so far and is the next best thing to onsite consulting, especially for visual learners. “The biological principles behind nearly all of the management inputs we cover in the videos were developed at Auburn University,” he says. “The biology hasn’t changed, just the expectations of the pond owner.” And thanks to the work of Swingle and others—Graves’ own dad included—recreational fishing continues to grow in popularity and profitability, improving lives and communities in ways you probably never imagined.
FEATURES | 36
Rowe, your boat BY JA MIE CRE A MER
A LUMNI G IV E BACK
G E N E R O U S AU B U R N A LU M S A N D B E N E FAC TO R S M I K E A N D L E A N N
R O W E TA K E A S A B B AT I C A L Y E A R T O C R U I S E A M E R I C A’ S G R E AT L O O P. Adventure is in the eye of the beholder. Leann Rowe came to that conclusion a couple of years ago when her husband, Florida entrepreneur and Auburn College of Agriculture alumnus and supporter Mike Rowe, became downright obsessed with the idea of taking on America’s Great Loop. For the non-boaters out there, the Great Loop is a continuous waterway that encompasses a big chunk of eastern North America. The counterclockwise route takes loopers from the Gulf and Atlantic intracoastal waterways, up the Hudson River to the Erie Canal, north to Canada’s Georgian Bay, through the Great Lakes, down the inland rivers and back to the Gulf of Mexico.
O N E CO I N , T WO S I D E S To Mike’s way of thinking, taking a boat out for a year-long, 6,000-mile cruise around the Great Loop sounded like the ultimate once-in-a-lifetime adventure. To Leann’s, it sounded like sheer torture. “For one thing, I didn’t know much about boats at the time and actually found them intimidating,” she says. “But more importantly, spending a whole year with the same person confined on a floating two-room house seemed pretty daunting to me.” Leann was what the America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association labels “a reluctant spouse.” Happens all the time with couples, the organization says: One of the two will be gung-ho; the other, not so much. It’s so common, in fact, that the association offers the enthusiastic partner some sure-fire tips on how to get the unexcited revved up. Long story short, Mike won his wife over, and on the not-so-picture-perfect morning of Jan. 22, 2016, the couple
launched their 48-foot motor yacht—the Rowe Boat—from their home port of St. Pete Beach, Fla., and began their voyage. Never mind that, just hours into the journey, high winds forced them to dock 30 miles shy of where they’d planned to stop for the evening.
TH E U N FO R E S E E N “That’s one piece of advice that people who’ve done this before have given us,” Mike said prior to the trip. “Be flexible, because you never know what’s going to come at you.” Some boating enthusiasts who aspire to complete the loop take the gradual approach, a few days or a week or so at a time, with the goal of eventually making it full circle. Others, like the Rowes, do it in one fell swoop. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of folks in the all-at-once category are retirees. But Mike, who celebrated the big 6-0 four days into the cruise, hasn’t retired. Not really—not when you consider that the 1978 Auburn agricultural business and economics graduate owns and is
president and CEO of Precision Kia in Wesley Chapel, Florida, and of Gulf Coast Turf and Tractor LLC, which has locations in Land O’Lakes and Plant City, Florida. “I am trying to slow down some, though,” he says. “I guess you could say I’m taking a sabbatical.” Wait: He’s leaving his three thriving automotive and farm equipment dealerships in employees’ hands? For a year? Absolutely. “What I enjoy most in life is helping people develop personally and professionally and be successful,” he says. “It’s all about people. In business, it’s about finding the right people.” The same holds true in life, and he definitely found the right woman in the Loveliest Village. How the Rowes met is not all that unusual a story among students who find true love at Auburn. It’s a story that typically involves notes. Not love notes; class notes.
‘Our philosophy is, we won’t give a handout; we will give a hand-up.’
MIKE ROWE , foreground, and friend Casey Jones prep the vessel for shoving off from a North Palm Beach marina in late February. Friends frequently join the Rowes for short segments of their journey.
FEATURES | 38
MIKE AND LE ANN ROWE , the couple on the right, enjoy a day on the beach in Aruba with daughter Katy and her friend, Daniel DeVore. Katy is an agricultural communications major in the College of Agriculture and will graduate in May. The Rowes’ son, Carson, is a music producer and artist who lives in Bethesda, Maryland. They were both sophomores at the time, and, as fate would have it, wound up in the same political science class. Leann, a journalism/public relations major, was a meticulous note-taker; he was not. “For me, if it wasn’t one of my ag production or business classes, my goal was just to get out of it with a passing grade,” he says. “So we started meeting at the library, and I’d copy her notes. And then I’d make better than her on the tests, and she’d get mad.” Ah, young love. She was a Tampa girl whose dad was an automotive dealership tycoon. She had a serious boyfriend at the University of Florida—which could be why her parents strongly encouraged her to attend Auburn. Mike hailed from Albertville and as a teen worked after school and in the summers on the loading dock at
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Faithway Feed Co., a feed-ingredient distribution operation in nearby Guntersville that his dad and an uncle co-owned. Even though that was his closest connection to agriculture, at some point, the young Rowe decided that, more than anything, he wanted to be a farmer. “The problem with that was, I had no land to farm on,” he says. “So I did the next best thing: I went to Auburn and the College of Ag.” And then they met, and it wasn’t long before she’d ditched her Florida beau for Rowe. In June 1977, the two were married in a lovely ceremony in Tampa and returned to Auburn in the fall to complete their degrees.
TH E E A R LY Y E A R S
The Rowes, both 1978 graduates, started their careers in Guntersville. She landed a job at a local radio station,
and he went to work full time at Faithway Feeds. “My dad operated the transportation side of the business and had a trucking company for Faithway Feeds, and I mostly worked dispatch,” Mike says. “I found out pretty quickly that wasn’t for me.” So a year later, when Leann’s dad, Frank Morsani, had a position in lease and rentals open at his dealership in Tampa, Rowe was more than happy to fill it. The Rowes were not long for Tampa, however. “Her dad was grooming me for the [car sales] business,” Mike says, and that basically meant every-other-year moves to Morsani-owned dealerships, two in Kentucky and a few back in Florida, so that he could gain experience at every position a dealership would have, from used-car sales to
management. He did the jobs, and he did them well. In 1992, though, the Rowes left the car business and big-city life and, with young Carson and Katy in tow, moved to Scottsboro and opened a farm and garden center. There, Mike’s shrewd business skills came shining through. “The key is market share,” he says. “We didn’t carry name-brand products, but quality products, and what we had, we sold at attractive pricing. Yes, we lost money, but we’ve always gone after market share before profit.” The couple understood the value of promoting the business, too, and that was Leann’s forte. An expert copywriter who in the ’80s had operated an inhouse ad agency for her father’s car dealerships, she knew how to craft a message and get the most bang for the buck. “We ran ads in the paper and on the radio, and that was big, because not many businesses in the area did,” Mike says. And, of course, customer service was the name of the game. For the Rowes, quality service basically meant always being on call. “Any time we had a storm, like snow or ice, in the area, everybody around knew we’d be open, and that we’d have whatever they needed—chain saws, generators—all at one place,” Mike says.
TH E B I G B OY S
Soon, Stihl, Kubota, BushHog and other big names in lawn and farm equipment came courting, asking the Rowes to market and carry their makes and models in the store, and by and by, the Rowes’ customer base expanded to include such entities as Alabama Power Co. and Mead Corp. Eight years after opening the Scottsboro store, though, the Rowes sold the garden center side of the business and moved back to west central Florida to open Gulf Coast Turf and Tractor, with two locations in the heart of strawberry, blueberry and golf-course country. When the opportunity to purchase a financially troubled Kia dealership in Wesley Chapel came Mike’s way in 2007, he made the most of it and quickly turned the place around.
IN A M A J OR REMODE LING PROJEC T that was chronicled
on the website Houzz, the Rowes in 2013 bought a drab, run-down ranch-style house and converted it into their personal St. Pete Beach paradise. A great view of the water was priority No. 1.
Obviously, his entrepreneurial spirit and business acumen have been key to his successful career, but could something greater have been at play, too? Based on Proverbs 19:17—“Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will reward them for what they have done”—the answer would have to be yes. Early in their marriage, the Rowes decided that, no matter their circumstances, they would give at least 10 percent of profits to nonprofit organizations and people in need. “Our philosophy has always been, we won’t give a handout; we will give a hand-up,” Mike says.
TI M E A N D M O N E Y
Since returning to the greater Tampa area in 2000, Leann has devoted far more than 10 percent of her time as a volunteer and board member for several area nonprofits that she and her husband support financially. Those include a women’s crisis center, a group that helps struggling workers secure transportation, an organization that serves the poor and homeless families and Big Brothers Big Sisters. The Rowes also donate to The Angelus, an assisted-living home
for handicapped adults, and have worked closely with country music legend Charlie Daniels in holding golf tournaments and concerts to raise funds for the Tampa facility. And as Auburn graduates, the Rowes are generous supporters of both the College of Agriculture and the College of Human Sciences. In addition to contributing to various annual giving programs, they have endowed professorships in both colleges and a fund for excellence in the College of Agriculture. In recognition of their total contributions to Auburn, they have been named members of three prestigious donor societies: the Ag Hill Dean’s Society in the College of Agriculture and the university’s George Petrie Society and 1856 Society Legacy Circle. “We’re very passionate about supporting Auburn,” Mike says. “Auburn gave us the opportunity to meet each other, and what we learned there has been a big part of our success.” TO KEEP UP WITH THE ROWES O N T H E I R G R E AT LO O P A D V E N T U R E , V I S I T: roweboatadventures.blogspot.com.
A SPIRIT THAT IS
not afraid BY JA MIE CRE A MER
NE W G R A DUATE
D E C E M B E R E N V I R O N M E N TA L S C I E N C E G R A D UAT E D O E S N’T L E T BRITTLE BONE DISEASE INTERFERE WITH LIFE. Two things made Danielle Tadych’s graduation from Auburn University in December over-the-top special. First, she graduated alongside Chris, her year-older brother and near-constant companion for the past 21 years. Even before he cleared the stage with his bachelor’s degree in animal sciences/pre-vet in hand, she was accepting hers in environmental science. “Chris and I were able to sit next to each other during the ceremony, and at one point while we were waiting for it to begin, he turned to me and said, ‘I’m glad we’re going through this together,’” she says. “I, of course, told him not to get soft on me. “But we started college at the same time, and because we had similar majors, we took many classes together as well,” she says. “Finishing with him made it extra wonderful.” So that was the first thing. The second thing was what happened as she crossed the stage.
upbeat Danielle. The spunky ball of fire is living proof that positive thinking is powerful, that attitude truly is everything. Danielle has osteogenesis imperfecta, or brittle bone disease, a genetic disorder in which the body lacks bonestrengthening collagen and, thus, bones easily break, sometimes for no apparent reason. She was diagnosed shortly after she entered the world, screaming with the pain of two broken arms. She has never stood or walked unaided and never will. She’s broken every bone in her body—except for those in her fingers, toes and face— at least once. She’s endured nine surgeries. But the thing is, the 3-foottall, 45-pound Danielle is fine with every bit of that. “This is how I was born, so it’s the only life I know, which is good, really, because I don’t have anything
‘This is how I was born, so it’s the only life I know.’
to compare it to,” the Opelika native says. “I’m totally comfortable with my disability. This, to me, is ‘normal.’ I won’t let it get in the way of things I want to do in life.”
A WI D E- O PE N F U T U R E
And you can count on that. Though, for now, she’s taking a break from academia and hopes to find a job related to her degree, she is certain she’ll return to college to pursue her master’s and perhaps her Ph.D. in environmental science or soil science. Ultimately, she wants to do research aimed at reversing the process of desertification, or the expansion of deserts and loss of vegetation. “I also want to be an advocate for people with disabilities and promote them in science,” she says. “We never know where life will lead us, of course. But whatever I end up doing, I hope to be in a position to help and love people.”
R O U N D O F A PPL AU S E
“I first heard my family cheering, but then everybody in the [Auburn] Arena started clapping,” she says. “My first thought was, they were clapping for whoever was behind me, but then I remembered there wasn’t anybody behind me; I was the last [graduate] in [the College of Agriculture] line. They were clapping for me.” It’s easy to understand why. Audience members couldn’t help but admire the fragile young lady in the wheelchair for having overcome what must have been grueling challenges and adversities on her way to a college degree. Only, it wasn’t that way at all. Not for the interminably optimistic, always-
S IB LING S Danielle and Chris Tadych are all smiles on graduation day.
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S O, W H AT ’S B E E N H A P P E N I N G ? NEW JOB? NEW CIT Y ? SHARE YOUR L ATEST NEWS WITH YOUR FELLOW ALUMNI IN THE NEX T ISSUE OF THE SE A SON AT AGRICULTURE . AUBURN.EDU/UPDATE OR EM AIL COAGDE V@AUBURN.EDU.
1940 S A. WYNDOL MURRAH (BS ’47, crop and soil sciences), of Montgomery retired as president of the Alabama Division of First South Production Credit Association. He and his wife, Betty (deceased), had a son (deceased); three daughters— Gayle Horner, Sarah Ivie and Donna Robbins; two granddaughters; and 10 great-grandchildren.
CHARLES COOK (BS ’54, agricultural sciences), of Alabaster is now retired. He and his wife, Judith, have two children. JIM GRANTHAM (BS ’57, biosystems engineering) of Raleigh, North Carolina, retired in 2010 after selling his company, a designer and supplier of portable laboratories for use in working with hazardous products and diseases. He had previously helped form a company to sell air filtration products, after serving as an area manager in the agricultural division of Monsanto Chemical Company. Following his graduation from Auburn, Grantham served four years in the U.S. Navy while
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earning an MS degree from Renssalear Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. He and his wife, Rosa, have three children: Debra Jean, Kia Lynn and James.
1960 S DOUG DOROUGH (BS ’64, horticulture), is a landscape designer and president of Lilburn, a Georgia–based Dorough Landscape Company, which was recently named Best Landscape Company in Gwinnett County. JIM DILBECK (BS ’66, agricultural sciences; MS ’68, entomology) of St. Augustine, Florida, has spent his entire career in St. Johns County and St. Augustine, the potato capital of Florida. He is a book collector and seller, has six grandchildren and owns his family’s timber and row-crop farm in Alabama’s Jackson County. He will be a Golden Eagle this year. “My years at Auburn were great, especially the years I lived in the Alpha Gamma Rho house.” LANE HUTCHINS (BS ’68, animal sciences), of Fredericksburg, Texas, is a
thoroughbred horse breeder and owner of Spring Creek Thoroughbreds. ED WHITE (PhD ’69, crop and soil sciences) of Marcellus, New York, is retired dean of research for the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. He had previously taught at the University of Kentucky and the University of Minnesota. He and his wife, Connie, have three children: Cory, Derek and Marcy.
1970 S JIM HARRIS (BS ’70, agricultural business and economics), of Eclectic retired in 2010 after serving 37 years with USDA Rural Development. He held a number of positions, including county supervisor, assistant district director, district director, state housing specialist, state business specialist, state community facilities program director and state multifamily housing program director. He and his wife, Catherine, have two children: Mary Haden and Joseph.
CL A S S NOTES
CLETE YOUMANS (BS ’78, crop and soil sciences) of Dyersburg, Tennessee, is a principal biologist for BASF Corp. He is also the Agricultural Alumni Association’s Tennessee representative for 2016. He and his wife, Deidra, have two children: Kyle and Claire. DON KOEHLER (BS ’79, animal sciences) of Tifton, Georgia, has served as executive director of the Georgia Peanut Commission for nearly 30 years. He was recently reappointed to a seventh term on the Technical Advisory Committee for Trade and was elected to chair the committee
for a second term. He and his wife, Cheryl, have two sons (one deceased), two daughters-in-law and three grandsons.
1980 S MARK HAMILTON (BS ’80, agricultural business and economics), of Hillsboro is owner of Hamilton Farms. He and his wife, Rhonella, have one child. EDDIE RAY JR. (BS ’80, horticulture), of Huntsville is owner of Classic Landscapes Inc. and The Greenery. Classic Landscapes is celebrating its 30th year. He and his wife, Becky, have
two sons: David and Phillip. “Both of our sons are attending Auburn University. The oldest is a senior in political science and the youngest is a sophomore in building science. My wife attended the University of Alabama but has converted to an Auburn fan.” MIKE TOLAR (BS ’80, agricultural business and economics) of Gainesville, Florida, is a senior strategic planner for Florida Farm Bureau Insurance. He and his wife, Debra, have four CONTINUED ON P. 46
Why Join Your Ag Alumni Association? Join us to help:
PROMOTE the College of Agriculture among prospective students and industry. ENGAGE your fellow alumni and friends in Auburn’s agricultural programs. FOSTER communication among alumni, faculty and students. ENCOURAGE younger generations to pursue careers in agriculture.
MEMBERSHIP TYPES LIFE MEMBERSHIP Life membership dues are a one-time payment of $150 or three installments of $60 each. Spouse life memberships are an additional $25.
NEW-GRADUATE LIFE MEMBERSHIP Graduating seniors can take advantage of a special reduced rate of $120 as a one-time payment or in three installments of $40 each.
Annual membership dues are $15 and are payable each January for the calendar year.
Donors to the association are classified as contributing, supporting, sponsoring or benefactor members, based on their levels of support.
J O I N U S T O D AY A T A G R I C U LT U R E . A U B U R N . E D U / W E L C O M E H O M E .
Cultivating agriculture’s future A LUMNI MEN TO RIN G PRO G R A M G I V ES G R A DS A N O PP O RT U NI T Y TO INFLU EN CE I N D I V I D U A L S A N D T H E I N D U S T R Y. B Y M A R Y C AT H E R I N E G A S TO N
Ask folks who have interacted with Grace Smith Ellis, and they will tell you that the 2006 Auburn College of Agriculture grad has got it together. But this busy working mom who serves as Alabama Ag Credit’s director of marketing and public relations will tell you it hasn’t always been so. She was once a young, green agricultural communications student who needed the wise guidance of those who had tread a similar professional path before her. By seeking them out, Ellis found the mentors she desperately needed. Those who helped her most were in the college dean’s office, in her ag communications classes and in her first job with Alabama Farmers Cooperative. Her fond memories and gratitude now inspire her to return the favor. “I recognize how badly I needed the influence of my mentors, and I believe in paying it forward,” Ellis says. “I feel as though I’ve been given a few secrets, and I love sharing them with most anyone who will listen.”
JOINING THE PROGRAM
That’s why, when she was contacted by the college’s student services coordinator, Amanda Martin, about participating in the Ag Alumni Mentoring Program, Ellis was more than happy to say yes. She has now mentored two current ag comm students and has enjoyed every minute of it. “My job keeps me busy,” she says. “But this program doesn’t require that much time.” During her tenure as their mentor, Ellis primarily communicated with Marlee Moore, a senior from Thomasville, and Ellie Isbell, a sophomore from Muscle Shoals, by email, though she does attend the events the college hosts for mentors and their mentees. In her eyes, it was time well spent. As a mentor, she gets to know the best and brightest students from the college, young people who not only could make excellent future employees for her company but who could also be
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G R A C E E L L I S feels like the two students she has mentored are “her girls,” so when she saw them pictured in this College of Agriculture display—Ellie Isbell on the left and Marlee Moore on the right—Ellis couldn’t resist posing for a snapshot.
her colleagues—and her competition, potentially—one day. But it’s not all business, Ellis graciously admits. She has enjoyed the relationships she and her mentees have developed. The feeling is mutual, and both Moore and Isbell have good reason to sing the praises of their mentor. “Our first activity with the program was résumé building,” Isbell says. “Grace took my resume and completely revamped it into something amazing.” The sophomore now has confidence that this tool will help her find a great fit when it is time to choose internships now and her first job post-graduation. She also appreciates the example Ellis has set when it comes to conducting one’s self professionally, both in actual and virtual social settings.
M A J O R I M PA C T
As for Moore, who will graduate this spring and hopes to find a position very similar to Ellis’—in communications with an agricultural entity—the impact Ellis’s tutelage has made cannot be overstated. “Not to be dramatic, but this experience can change your life,” Moore says. “The impact Grace had on me is impossible to describe.
“Mentors have the opportunity to share their good and poor choices, words of wisdom, life lessons— whatever you want to call it,” Moore says. “You could change the course of someone’s life by showing them your career path.” While successful alumni entertain a number of “asks” from their alma maters, Isbell boils down the value of answering this one affirmatively. “I believe that this is the most important thing that an alumnus can give back,” she says. “We are students who are in the exact same place that you once were, and our goal is to get to the place that you are currently. “It is part of your job as agriculturalists to equip the next generation to continue providing food, fiber and fuel for the world for years to come.” More program details and mentor applications for the 2016-17 academic year are available online at www. agriculture.auburn.edu/mentor. Contact Amanda Martin at amanda.martin@ auburn.edu or 334-844-8900 for additional information.
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CONTINUED FROM P. 46
MIKE CREEST (BS ’81, agricultural business and economics), of Cullman is manager of transportation and safety for Central Garden & Pet Company. After Crest’s graduation from Auburn, Lowell Wilson, a faculty member in the College of Agriculture, put him in contact with Pennington Seed Inc. in Cullman. “I went to work with them in June of ’82 and I have worked there ever since then. Pennington Seed is now owned by Central Garden & Pet. I have had a long and happy career in an ag-related business and plan to work many more years before retiring. I am thankful for my Auburn education and the continued care as was shown by Dr. Wilson in helping me find a great career opportunity. War Eagle!” BRETT CHAMBERS (BS ’82, animal sciences) of Wichita, Kansas, is operations lead for Cargill Inc., the largest ground beef processor in the country. He is responsible for all ground beef and finely textured beef operations. He and his wife, Vicki, have three children: Mindy, Lindsey and K.C. CHARLES HART (BS ’82, animal sciences), of Clay is a veterinarian at Clay-Chalkville Animal Clinic. He serves on the Auburn Alumni Association Board of Directors and the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine Alumni Advisory Council. He and his wife, Lori, have four
children: Payton Bowling, Heather Guilbert, Zack and Chaz. LISA RIVERS (BS ’82, animal sciences), of Madison is an employment and compensation associate for The University of Alabama in Huntsville. She has a daughter, Laura. BILL CHRISTENBERRY (BS ’83, animal sciences), of Birmingham is a veterinarian at Caldwell Mill Animal Clinic, where he recently celebrated 25 years as an owner/partner. He and his wife, Kim, have eight children: Wilson, Boyd, Steele, Elise, Selah, Kai, Poppi and Johnny. They also have one grandchild and a second one on the way. RALPH RICKS (BS ’83, animal sciences) of Pendleton, South Carolina, is a research associate at Clemson University. He and his wife, Ronda, have a daughter, Savannah. STELLA WILLIAMS
(PhD ’83, fisheries, aquaculture and aquatic sciences) of Lagos, Nigeria, is now retired and running NiWARD, or Nigerian Women in Agricultural Research for Development, a program focused on transforming the rural agricultural sector of Nigeria.
She and her husband, Maj. Gen. O.I. Williams, have three children: Olajumoke, Olawale and Olabukunola. ARCH HOWELL (BS ’84, crop and soil sciences) of Greenwood, Mississippi, is a branch manager for Helena Chemical Company. He has been with Helena for five years. He joined the company after retiring as a sales representative for Syngenta Crop Protection, where he spent 25 years. Howell and his wife, Karen, have two children: Haley and Austin. JAY PACE (BS ’84, agricultural business and economics), of Fairhope is assistant administrator for EastPointe Hospital in Daphne. He and his wife, Laura, have three children: Elise, John and Emily. CHARLIE PEACOCK (BS ’84, MS, poultry science), of Tuscaloosa is director of processing operations for Peco Foods Inc. He and his wife, Carla, have two sons: Austin and Anderson. He is the “proud grandfather of Collins Peacock, who turned 2 years old on Feb. 20.” FRANK CONWELL (BS ’87, animal sciences), of Mobile went on to earn a degree from Auburn’s School of Pharmacy following his graduation from the College of Agriculture. (Continued) CONTINUED ON P. 46
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FRANK CONWELL (Cont’d) He is now a pharmacist and owner of Conwell’s Pharmacy in Theodore, part of the Fowl River Community close to Dauphin Island. “My fondest memories of Auburn were from my days in the College of Agriculture. It was a great academic experience!” DEANNE SMITH-HODGES (BS ’87, agricultural sciences) is a retired instructor. She and her husband, Paul, have two children: Audrey and Dusti. Audrey is in her fourth year at Auburn, and Dusti plans to enroll this fall.
1990 S DENNIS GRIFFIN (BS ’91, agricultural business and economics), of New Brockton serves in the U.S. Army as the Command Inspector General for Space and Missile Defense Command and Army Forces Strategic Command at Redstone Arsenal. He and his wife, Michelle, have three children: Preston, Grant and Ryan. CHRIS GARY (BS ’92, agricultural business and economics), of Auburn is director of athletics development for Tigers Unlimited-Auburn Athletics. He and his wife, Ginger, have three children: Gaston, Gabby and Griffin. BRIAN HARDIN (BS ’95, animal sciences; MS ’98, horticulture), of Wetumpka is director of governmental and agricultural programs for the Alabama Farmers
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Federation. He and his wife, Kelli, have three children: Emma, Judd and Jake. STEVE HARBISO (BS ’96, poultry science) is in his second year as owner of Live Haul Products, a manufacturer of poultry transport cases and hathery egg buggies. He and his wife, Paula, have two children: Tyler and Sara Beth. HEATH HOFFMAN (BS ’96, MS ’14, horticulture), of Opelika is a research associate and facility manager for the Auburn Department of Horticulture’s Paterson Greenhouses. He and his wife, Mandy, have two children: Carson (15) and Ella Claire (10). SARAH (NICKELSON) MATTHEWS (BS ’96, horticulture) is an education curator for the City of Providence’s Museum of Natural History. She has two daughters: Molly and Megan. CHASTITY STEVENSON WESTRY (BS ’97, agricultural business and economics), of Hoover was recently promoted to a senior director of sales for Frito-Lay, leading the company’s customer strategy in Alabama, Mississippi and portions of Louisiana, Arkansas and Tennessee. She had previously served as a senior sales director for Frito Lay in north Texas and Oklahoma. She and her husband, Gerry, and daughter, Gabriel, moved to Hoover in January.
2000 S MANDI GOSNELL (BS ’00, agricultural business and economics) and her husband, Andrew, celebrated the arrival of their son, Harrison Bryce, July 14, 2015. He weighed 8 pounds. and was 21 inches long. They live in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. CHRIS HEPTINSTALL (BS ’00, animal sciences) of Fairmount, Georgia, is general manager for the Salacoa Valley Farms seedstock division of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. He has held the position since 2010. JEREMY ADAMS (BS ’01, horticulture), of Prattville is owner of Bobcat Cleaning Company. He and his wife, Meredith, have two children. MICHELLE GOREE HAYNES (BS ’01, animal sciences) of Gainesville, Georgia, is a smallanimal veterinarian at Gainesville Veterinary Hospital and Northeast Georgia Veterinary Relief LLC. She and her husband, Glen, have three children: Mikayla, Joshua and Jordyn Grace. JARROD JONES (BS ’01, crop and soil sciences; MS ’04, plant pathology) is associate director for the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station’s Gulf Coast Research and Extension Center in Fairhope. He and his wife, Kara, have three children: Ashlynn, Kelsi and Jase. CONTINUED ON P. 47
FROM PORK AND CORK TO BIRDS AND BREWS In October 2015, the Auburn University Agricultural Alumni Association raised more than $10,000 for Department of Animal Sciences scholarships at “Pork and Cork,” the first of what will become an annual fall fundraising social. Held at the Alabama Farmers Pavilion at Ag Heritage Park, Pork and Cork featured meats from the college’s Lambert-Powell Meats Lab in dishes prepared by top area chefs. The more than 200 guests also enjoyed Alabama-brewed beers and wines. “In addition to raising funds that will help deserving students attend the college, we wanted this event to raise awareness about agriculture and to promote local businesses,” organizer Amanda Martin, student
services and alumni relations coordinator for the college said of Pork and Cork. This fall’s social, themed “Birds and Brews,” will raise scholarship funds for the Department of Poultry Science. The event will take place FRIDAY, OCT. 28, and tickets will be available for purchase online at birdsandbrews.weebly.com in late summer 2016. Don Conner, head of the Department of Poultry Science, is thrilled that the department was chosen to benefit from the second annual event and says it will help bring deserving, serious students to the Plains. “Scholarships play a key role in determining whether or not many
of our students will choose Auburn,” Conner says. “This event allows donors to have fun while making it possible for the next generation of industry leaders to study at Auburn. In my opinion, that’s a win for everyone.” For more information, contact Martin at (334) 844-8900 or email email@example.com.
Auburn researchers using unmanned aircraft systems to assess crop health BY CHARLES M ARTIN
The agriculture industry has seen many advances in farming over the decades, from mule and plow to high tech tractors and equipment—and now unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS. Auburn University precision agriculture researchers are using the aircraft to monitor crop health over large acreages; it’s a method that lets farmers quickly address potential trouble spots. “Precision agriculture techniques enable the producer to apply things like fertilizer and herbicide only where they are needed, which helps increase yields and profits for agribusiness,” says Steve Taylor, head of Auburn’s Department of Biosystems Engineering. “These tools are having a major impact in many areas, not only for agricultural crops but also for better management of our forests.” The unmanned aircraft systems, or drones, are programmed to fly over a specific agricultural area and capture digital images and data with various types of cameras or sensors. After the flight, researchers download the data onto a computer so they can see potential trouble spots, such as moisture stress in plants, diseases that might be developing or a nutrition issue. The data is transferred into GPS-guided ground equipment that can deliver resources— water, pesticides and fertilizer— precisely where they are needed. “It’s a platform to carry a sensor to let us collect information much more rapidly,” Taylor says. “The farmer or another UAS provider can come to the field today and collect information, download it to the computer this afternoon and have that data. Within a few hours, we can be back in the field taking action to remedy the problems uncovered by the UAS.” Auburn is conducting much of its research at the E.V. Smith Research Center near Tallassee and at other Alabama Agricultural Experiment
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BIOSYSTEMS DEPARTMENT HE AD STE VE TAYLOR , left, and research engineer Christian Brodbeck prepare to launch a fixed-wing drone used in their precision agriculture research.
Station research units across the state. Research engineer Christian Brodbeck, a graduate of the Department of Biosystems Engineering, says the Department of Biosystems engineering works closely with the university’s Aviation Center to obtain FAA authorization to fly in specific areas and at certain altitudes. Auburn’s Aviation Center has FAA authorization to fly anywhere in the state below 200 feet for education and data collection activities. Biosystems Engineering recently received a Certificate of Authorization from the FAA to allow detailed research flights at the E.V. Smith Research Center at altitudes up to 400 feet high. “This higher altitude allows us to cover more ground during a flight or reduces our flight time for a given field,” Brodbeck says. “We have applied for another certificate to fly anywhere in the state at these altitudes to expand our research capabilities.” He says Auburn’s fixed-wing drones have extended flight times, in varying wind conditions, while the rotary-wing drones can fly about 15 minutes. The cost of research drones is substantially higher than hobby models, ranging from $30,000 to $50,000 each, but as with
most electronic equipment, the price is expected to go down as the technology develops. Brodbeck says the advantage of the professional models is the advanced software, longer flight times and more powerful cameras and sensors. Greg Pate, E.V. Smith Research Center director and two-time Auburn agronomy and soils graduate, says the rapid feedback drones provide will be a game-changer for agriculture. In 2015 Auburn received the nation’s first FAA approval to operate a new unmanned aircraft systems flight school as part of its Aviation Center. The center trains Auburn students and faculty, members of public agencies and the general public. The university has been involved in aviation education for more than 80 years and has been providing flight training for pilots for nearly 75 years. Auburn offers three aviation/ aerospace degrees: aviation management, professional flight management and aerospace engineering. More information is available on the Auburn University Aviation Center website at www.auburn.edu/ aviationcenter.
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CRIS “BUG” HARKLEROAD (BS ’02, horticulture) of Sunset Beach, California, is a gardener for the Garden Grove Unified School District in Garden Grove, Calif. PATRICK ANDERSON (BS ’03, horticulture), of Pelham is a building inspector for the Shelby County Commission. He and his wife, Lyndsay, have three children. SALLY CREDILLE (BS ’06, agricultural communications) works for Osborn+Barr Communications in Kansas City, Missouri. She is engaged to Darrell Krueger, a 2005 and 2007 graduate of Auburn’s College of Engineering. “We live in Lawrence, Kansas, home of the University of Kansas Jayhawks. They may know a thing or two about basketball but they certainly don’t know football quite like we do in the Loveliest Village on the Plains! WAR EAGLE!” DIANE CALHOUN
(BS ’07, animal sciences) of Colquitt, Georgia, is owner of Southern Cross Ranch. She and her husband, Gregory, have two children: Philip and Annabeth. Annabeth was born Nov. 28, 2015. RICHARD WILT (BS ’07, crop and soil sciences), of Foley is a project manager for Bent Oak Farm.
ASHLEY WITCHER (BS ’07, MS ’10, horticulture), of Canton, Georgia, is a county extension coordinator for UGA Extension. WHITLYN MILLER (BS ’09, horticulture) of Nassau, Bahamas, is a horticulture teacher for the Bahamas Ministry of Education. She has started a farm, selling sprouts, microgreens, root crops and leafy greens, and processes yogurt from local fruits. She makes presentations at local health fairs. She and her husband, Basil Miller Jr., have a son, Basil Miller III. CALEB PALMER (BS ’09, poultry science) is a veterinarian at Mountain Emergency Animal Center. He and his wife, Margaret, are newlyweds after marrying in Maui, Hawaii, recently. MOLLY MCCORD RABALAIS (BS ’09, animal sciences) of Thomaston, Georgia, graduated from nursing school at Georgia Southwestern University in May 2013 and is now a registered nurse. She and her husband, Josh, were married in June 2014 and are now “building a farmhouse on our new 35-acre farm here in Thomaston. No children yet, just our sweet Springer, Strait; our loyal mutt, Latch; Mr. Fred, our newest kitty; and our new 17.2 warmblood, Basco. Plus nine other four-legged children and nine sweet chickens.”
2010 S MICHAEL HILL JR. (BS ’10, agricultural business and economics) of Apopka, Florida, is a blueberry farmer at Southern Hill Farms, a business he started in central Florida following his graduation from Auburn. The business recently started a packing and marketing operation of fresh blueberries worldwide. Hill and his wife, Brooke, have two children: David Michael and Claire Marie. DOUG TOLLETT (BS ’10, animal sciencies) and wife MELISSA (BS ‘06, animal sciences) live in West Palm Beach, Florida, where he works in sales for Midwest Veterinary Supply. EMILY NELL WILSON (BS ’11, horticulture) lives in Asheville, North Carolina, with her husband, Bryan, and is a rosarian for Biltmore Estate. BRAD COX
(BS ’12, MS agriscience education) is an area director for the Alabama Farmers Federation. He previously taught agriculture at Fayette County High School in Fayette. He and his wife, Anna, recently celebrated their first anniversary. CONTINUED ON P. 51
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AUTUMN GRINDLE (BS ’12, animal sciences) of Opelika, is a laboratory animal technician for the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine. She and her husband, Justin, were married in August 2015 and have “only fur babies currently: four basset hounds, a dachshund mix and a pinball.” RACHEL ARNOLD (BS ’13, animal sciences) is currently a student in Auburn’s College of Veterinary Medicine. She and her husband, Ivan, have a son, Caiden.
D AV I D B R A N S B Y
KIRA CHALOUPKA (BS ’13, MS ’15, horticulture) began her position as a commercial and consumer horticulture extension agent for the North Carolina Cooperative Extension System in April 2015. TYLER DUKE
(BS ’14, horticulture), of Cullman works in transportation and logistics for R.E. Garrison Trucking.
COURTNEY HOLSCHER (BS ’14, animal sciences) of Knoxville, Tennessee, is enrolled in veterinary school at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.
TO SUBMIT YOUR CLASS NOTES, visit us online at agriculture.auburn.edu/class-notes or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
THR E E LO N G TIME FACU LT Y ME MB E R S R E TIR E Three veteran College of Agriculture faculty members have retired in recent months, including John Jensen, David Bransby and Stephen Schmidt. Jensen—who, over the course of his 30-year career at Auburn, served as School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences professor, extension specialist, department head and interim director and, from 2001-04, as interim dean/director of the
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College of Agriculture and Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station— officially retired for the second time Aug. 31, 2015. He first retired in 2007, though he continued to work part-time until 2013, when he came out of retirement to serve as the school’s full-time interim director. Bransby, a Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences professor with 28 years of service to the college, retired Nov. 30, 2015. Bransby taught and conducted
research in the areas of energy crops and bioenergy as well as forage livestock management. Schmidt, a professor in the Department of Animal Sciences, retired Jan. 31 after 40 years as an animal sciences teacher, undergraduate academic adviser, graduate student mentor and researcher. Through the years, he taught 10 different animal science courses to hundreds of students.
THE THREE 2016 AL ABA M A AGRICULTUR AL HALL OF HONOR INDUC TEES —including Stanley Wilson, center; Jim Cravey, second from right; and Wayne Thames, right—pose with interim College of Agriculture Dean Arthur Appel, left, and Auburn Agricultural Alumni Association President Paul Pinyan prior to a banquet held in the inductees’ honor in early February.
Auburn Ag Alumni Association honors five F O R S I G N I F I C A N T C O N T R I B U T I O N S T O A L A B A M A A G R I C U LT U R E .
Three men who have advanced, strengthened and contributed to the growth of Alabama’s agricultural industry throughout their careers became the newest members of the Auburn University Agricultural Alumni Association’s Alabama Agricultural Hall of Honor in a banquet and ceremony held in February at the Auburn Marriott Opelika Hotel and Conference Center at Grand National. Also during the banquet, two other Alabamians who had a strong, positive impact on agriculture in the state were recognized posthumously as the association’s 2016 Pioneer Award recipients. The 2016 Hall of Honor inductees were former Montgomery resident Jim Cravey of Shalimar, Florida, honoree in the agribusiness sector; Wayne Thames of Evergreen, productionsector honoree; and education/ government inductee Stanley Wilson of Auburn. Recipients of the Pioneer Awards were the late Walter “Sonny” Corcoran of Eufaula and the late Ralph Harris of Auburn. Cravey, a native of Covington County and 1970 Auburn alumnus with a degree in agriscience education, held various leadership positions with the Alabama Farmers Federation during his 34year tenure there. He retired from the organization in 2004 as senior director of its Commodity Department and director of its Dairy Division. In 2013, he temporarily returned
to the workforce to serve as interim executive director of the Alabama Peanut Producers Association. Today, he and his brother, Albert, own and operate a farm and hunting lodge on the family land in Florala. Thames, who received an agribusiness degree from Alabama Polytechnic Institute in 1960, is a cattle farmer whose operation, located near the Monroe County–Conecuh County line, includes 1,200 acres of pasture and timber and 500 adult cows and brood heifers. A 2006 inductee into the Alabama Livestock Hall of Fame and a past president of the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association, Thames has also served on the Alabama Agricultural Development Authority and the USDA’s Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board. Wilson is a former assistant dean in Auburn’s College of Agriculture and associate director of the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station who later served as the university’s vice president for agriculture, home economics and veterinary medicine. He, too, is an Auburn agriculture alumnus, receiving his B.S. and M.S. degrees in animal sciences in 1953 and 1958, respectively. The Escambia County native also raised purebred Angus cattle. When he retired from that operation in 2001, he donated his entire herd and all his farming equipment to the College of Agriculture’s beef teaching
unit. The unit was subsequently named in his honor. The two 2016 Pioneer Awards were presented to the families of the late Walter “Sonny” Corcoran of Eufaula and the late Ralph Harris Sr. of Auburn. Corcoran was a Barbour County farmer who played a key role in the implementation of the Boll Weevil Eradication Program in Alabama. He held leadership roles in numerous organizations, including the Alabama Farmers Federation, the Alabama Peanut Producers Association and the National Cotton Council. Harris spent more than 40 years as a faculty member and then department head in Auburn’s Department of Animal Sciences, where he taught animal nutrition and was a favorite among students. A member of the Alabama Livestock Hall of Fame, Harris was a native of Winfield. Any member of the Auburn Ag Alumni Association can submit nominations for Hall of Honor inductees and Pioneer Award recipients. The association’s executive board makes the final selections. The Agricultural Alumni Association established the Hall of Honor in 1984. The awards banquet is held each year in conjunction with the association’s annual meeting. For more about the awards, visit agriculture.auburn.edu/ alumni/hall-of-honor/.
RECIPIE NT S O F THE CO LLEG E O F AG RICU LTU RE ’ S 2016 O UT S TA ND IN G A LUMNI AWA RDS— flanked by former Interim Dean Arthur Appel, left, and Dean Paul Patterson, right—include, from left, Amanda Rials, Tom Bonner, Sally Credille, Frank Randle, Mitchell Pate, Danny Holmberg, Jeff McManus, Stanley Cook and Clay Scofield. Not shown is Donald Ball.
Auburn agriculture honors 2016 outstanding alumni T E N ACCO M P L I S H E D P R O F E S S I O N A L S W H O H O L D D E G R E E S F R O M AU B U R N ’ S CO L L E G E O F AG R I C U LT U R E W E R E P R E S E N T E D 2016 CO L L E G E O F AG R I C U LT U R E O U T S TA N D I N G A LU M N I AWA R D S D U R I N G A C E R E M O N Y A N D D I N N E R I N F E B R UA RY.
D EPA RTMEN T O F AG R I CU LT U R A L ECO N OMI C S A ND RU R A L S O CI O LO G Y
D EPA RTM EN T O F A NIM A L S CIEN CE S
D EPA RTM EN T O F B I OS Y S T E M S EN G INEER IN G
BS ‘04, agricultural business and economics
Scofield is a successful thirdgeneration poultry farmer who in 2005 established his own operation, Clay Scofield Farms, in Guntersville. Five years later, he entered state politics and is now in his second term as a member of the Alabama Senate, representing District 9, which includes Marshall and parts of Madison, Blount and DeKalb counties. As a state lawmaker, Scofield has been a strong supporter of agricultural initiatives in the Alabama Legislature and serves on the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee.
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BS ‘01, MS ‘03, animal sciences
After completing his master’s degree at Auburn, Bonner spent nine years with the foodpackaging giant Sealed Air Corp. and its Cryovac brand. While there, he was awarded a patent for developing the award-winning and widely used Cryovac Grip & Tear® vacuum-packaged bag for the food industry. In 2012, he joined the Birmingham-based food manufacturer supply company John R. White Co. Inc., where he currently is national account sales and technical manager, overseeing $30 million per year in sales throughout the Southeast and nationally.
BS ‘80, agricultural engineering
Holmberg, who went on to earn a master’s degree in engineering from Auburn in 1982, was named vice president of Krebs Engineering in Montgomery in 2003 after 21 years with the Water Works and Sanitary Sewer Board of the City of Montgomery. He retired from the Board as assistant general manager. Throughout his career, he has been a leader in developing engineering solutions that ensure clean, safe supplies of drinking water and proper wastewater disposal.
DONALD BALL D EPA RTMEN T O F CRO P, S O IL A ND EN V IRO NMEN TA L S CIEN CE S
MS ‘73, PH.D. ‘76, agronomy and soils
Over his 34-year career as a faculty member and Extension agronomist in what formerly was the Department of Agronomy and Soils, Ball developed the premier forage program in the country and gained a reputation as the foremost authority on forages in the South. The Auburn resident retired in 2010 as professor emeritus and in the years since has worked as a consultant on forage production and cultivation.
FR ANK R ANDLE D EPA RTMEN T O F EN TOMO LO G Y A ND PL A N T PAT H O LO G Y
B.S.,’75, integrated pest management
Randle is known throughout Lee County and surrounding areas as the owner of Randle Farms, a “community-supported agriculture” operation he started in the mid-1970s and now runs with sons Franklin and Zach. He also has a reputation nationally as an agricultural pioneer in low-impact, sustainable agriculture and exemplifies the use of integrated strategies for optimizing plant and animal production. In addition to sales to CSA and individual customers, Randle Farms products are featured in several top Auburnarea restaurants.
JEFF MCMANUS D EPA RTMEN T O F H O RT I CU LT U R E
BS ‘88, horticulture By the time he was hired as director of Landscape, Airport and Golf Operations at the University of Mississippi in 2000,
McManus had made a name for himself as a masterful landscaper at two luxury resorts in Florida. At Ole Miss, he has transformed the 1,500-acre campus in Oxford, Mississippi, into one of the bestlandscaped public properties in the U.S. He is a noted speaker and trainer on leadership development and has two books, “Prune Like a Pro” and, forthcoming, “Growing Landscape Weeders to Leaders.”
STANLEY COOK SCHOOL OF FISHERIES, AQUACULTURE AND AQUATIC SCIENCES
MS ‘78, fisheries and allied aquacultures
From his first Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources job as state fish hatchery supervisor to his later role as chief of the department’s inland fisheries division, Cook was a strong leader for the management and production of, not just game fish, but all aquatic species. The Hope Hull resident retired from 32 years with the agency in 2015 but remains as a fisheries adviser and represents the department as a member of the Alabama Water Agencies Working Group, which is responsible for developing a statewide water management plan.
AMANDA RIALS D EPA RTM EN T O F P O U LT RY S CIEN CE
BS ‘04, poultry science
Rials is food safety quality assurance manager for Tyson Foods in Bentonville, Arkansas. In addition to her rapid advancement in and continued success with Tyson, she has remained highly involved with poultry science at Auburn, serving as a mentor and coach to current students. She also has been instrumental in placing numerous Auburn poultry science
students in internships and graduates into jobs with Tyson.
SALLY CREDILLE AG R I CU LT U R A L COM MU NI C AT I O N S
BS ‘06, agricultural communications
Credille began her career as senior public relations manager with Eberly and Collard, an Atlanta public relations agency specializing in home, garden and agribusiness, but returned to Auburn in 2008 for a position as communications manager in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. In 2013, she joined St. Louis–based Osborn + Barr, an agriculture communications agency, working with such clients as the United Soybean Board. Today, she is an associate director in the agency’s Kansas City office.
MITCHELL PATE A LUM NI SERV I CE AWA R D
BS ‘85, poultry science
In 2006, after more than two decades in the commercial poultry industry, Pate came to Auburn as director of the Poultry Research Farm Unit. He has been a dedicated supporter of the College of Agriculture through the years and is extremely involved with and connected to events hosted by the college, the Agricultural Alumni Association and the college’s development office to help ensure their success. He also is a strong advocate for the college and the poultry science department in the numerous professional associations of which he is a member. Nominations for the 2016 alumni awards were submitted by departments and units within the College of Agriculture. The final selection was made by a committee that included the college’s interim dean, associate deans, department heads and unit directors.
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Spring & Summer 2016 Events A PR IL
J U NE
08 AGRICULTURAL ALUMNI ASSOCIATION S P R I N G B OA R D M EE T I N G
02 FA RM TO TA B L E D IN N ER
08 OPEN HOUSE Visit your alma mater for a weekend full of Ag Hill traditions. Register at agriculture.auburn.edu/open-house.
Enjoy a fresh-from-the-farm feast prepared by Auburn Chef Chris Wilton and featuring foods from our Market at Ag Heritage Park vendors. Tickets are $50. Reserve your plate at FarmToTableAuburn.com
09 A-DAY SPRING GAME 15
SUCCES SFUL WOMEN IN AG RICULT URE SCHOL A RSHIP LUNCHEON Join us for this special meeting of women professionals in agriculture, agribusiness and agriculture-related industries. As a member of this donor society, you can help influence the young women who will be the agricultural producers, scientists, businesswomen, policymakers and leaders of tomorrow. For more information, visit agriculture.auburn.edu/swa.
M AY 08 G R A D UAT I O N B R E A KFA S T A N D S P R I N G COM M EN CE M EN T CER E MO N Y 13
G O L D EN E AG L E S LU N CH EO N Golden Eagles honors those who have been alumni for over 50 or more years. To register for the Auburn Alumni Association Golden Eagles Program, please visit www.aualum.org/ge.
19 SUM M ER CL A S S E S B EG I N
New in 2017! T H E A LU M N I & FRIENDS CRUISE Join your College of Agriculture family on a five-day Carnival Cruise. The cruise leaves from Mobile FEB. 20 with ports of call in Progresso and Cozumel. Deposits are due SEPT. 9. agriculture.auburn.edu/alumni-cruise
A U B U R N
U N I V E R S I T Y
FARM to TABLE DINNER
A G R I C U LT U R A L
A L U M N I
A S S O C I AT I O N
J U LY 04 I N D EP EN D EN CE DAY 22 AG R I CU LT U R A L A LUM N I A S S O CI AT I O N SUM M ER B OA R D M EE T I N G
Fall 2016 Events AU G U S T
Hosted by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station and Auburn Universityâ€™s College of Agriculture, Ag Discovery Adventure will offer adults and children entertaining and enlightening hands-on activities and presentations that will showcase agricultural technology and illustrate the key role agriculture plays in every aspect of our lives. For more information, visit agriculture.auburn.edu/agdiscovery.
06 GRADUATION BRE AKFAST AND SUMMER COMMENCEMENT CEREMONY 07 FR E S H M A N MOV E-I N WEEKEN D 16
AG D I S COV ERY A DV EN T U R E
FA L L 2016 CL A S S E S B EG I N
S E P TE MB E R 02 AGRICULTUR AL ALUMNI A SSOCIATION FA L L B OA R D M EE T I N G 03 P O U LT RY S CIEN CE A LUM N I ,
M AKE A DISCOVERY
FR IEN DS A N D R ECRU I T IN G B B Q
Join us for our annual Friends, Alumni and Recruiting BBQ and Auburn football game. Block seating tickets will be available as Auburn takes on Arkansas State. At the post-game lunch, prospective students can meet with faculty and current students while alumni reconnect with peers and colleagues. Bring the family to enjoy a variety of activities â€“ and visit with Rocko the Rooster! Visit poul.auburn.edu and find us on Facebook for more details coming this summer.
JOIN US FOR AG DISCOVERY ADVENTURE AT THE E.V. SMITH RESE ARCH CENTER IN SHORTER, AL A .
28 B IR DS & B R E WS Hosted by the Auburn Agricultural Alumni Association, this event will feature a number of top-rated chefs and beverage distributors. Tickets are $50, and all proceeds will benefit student scholarships in the Auburn Department of Poultry Science. For more information or ticket purchases, visit poul.auburn.edu/birds-and-brews.
30 COW TA L E S AT COM ER H A L L
Enjoy lunch and a trip down memory lane as retired animal sciences professor Dale Coleman talks about the history of Auburn traditions. Register at agriculture.auburn.edu/homecoming.
O C TO B E R 01 H OM ECOM IN G + AG RO U N D U P Join us at Ag Heritage Park for a variety of fun activities, silent auction, great food and more. Ag Roundup tickets are $5 each. Ag Roundup tickets plus tickets to the Auburn-ULM Homecoming game are $40 each. For more information, visit agriculture.auburn.edu/agroundup.
N OV E MB E R 20 T H A N K S G I V IN G B R E A K
(L A S T S T H RO U G H T H E 24T H)
30 AG EL I T E Ag Elite is an annual luncheon banquet to celebrate the achievements of minorities in food, agricultural and natural resource fields. The event also includes the presentation of a scholarship award to one high school senior. For more information, visit agriculture.auburn. edu/agelite.
D I G L E A D ER S H IP CO N FER EN CE The DIG (Dedication, Innovation and Growth) Leadership Conference is an opportunity for high school students to develop the leadership and professional skills that will help set them apart both inside and outside of the classroom. For more information, visit agriculture.auburn.edu/dig.
D E CE MB E R 16
GRADUATION BRE AKFAST AND FALL COM M EN CE M EN T CER E MO N Y
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FOR MAKING 2015 A HISTORIC YEAR. In 2015, donors committed a record $15.2 million to the College of Agriculture because they believe in the impact of our work. Their support translated into increased scholarship assistance for students, investments in new state-of-the-art facilities and advancements to academic and research programs, among other initiatives. Each gift makes a difference, not only for the College of Agriculture, but for the communities and lives we benefit every single day.
THERE IS TREMENDOUS POWER
in every gift.
Help us make history again in 2016 through your gift to the college today. Learn more and give online at agriculture.auburn.edu/because.