Tornado Hits Kentucky Extension Center

Ag Research Center Talks of Hope After Tornado Damage

Pamela Smith
By  Pamela Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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Aerial view of the University of Kentucky Research and Education Center after it took a direct hit from a weekend tornado. (Photo by Matt Barton, UK agricultural communications)

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- The University of Kentucky Research and Education Center in Princeton took a direct hit from the tornado that began in northwestern Arkansas and carved a path of destruction across the western half of Kentucky on Friday. The largest off-campus branch of the UK Extension efforts, the center has a history of agricultural innovations that extend beyond the state borders.

Chad Lee, director of the UK Grain and Forage Center of Excellence, told DTN safety officials condemned 90% of the structures at the station on Saturday -- including the main building, laboratories and barns. "There was no loss of life (at the center) and we are extremely thankful for that," Lee said.

Lee spoke to DTN briefly as more risk management officials were showing up to further assess damage. He took time to talk about university personnel and a community coming together in time of need. Center employees, led by site director Carrie Knott, worked through the weekend, securing and caring for animals, assessing damage and offering support, he noted.

As a testament to the importance of the center to the state's agriculture industry, two temporary office buildings and two temporary storage buildings will be placed on-site Dec. 14.

"The outpouring of community support has been very humbling to us," Knott said in a UK press release. "We are not closing our doors, but we will look a little different and be a little more fragmented at least for the near future."

In a 1925 dedication of the facility -- then called a substation -- Dean Thomas Poe Cooper stated: "West Kentucky is progressive and it will attain great heights with this new station here. (This) farm has in it the soul of these people." Those words seem to give heart to the statements made about the agricultural center in the aftermath of the storm.

"The Kentucky agricultural community is a strong community. It is a kind community, and it is a generous community," Lee said. "We are going to rely heavily on them to help us get through this as we work to build anew. Our hearts are broken but not our spirits."

UK President Eli Capilouto recognized the importance of the educational efforts of the research center in a UK press release and committed "to rebuilding, helping the area recover and emerging stronger than before." (See the release at https://news.ca.uky.edu/…)

Lee said the agricultural research center sits on two of the most predominant grain growing soils in Kentucky. "It's where a lot of no-till agricultural research has been done over the years," he noted. "It's where the effects of fescue toxicosis was figured out and that research was conducted. It's where the soil penetrometer partially got its start." He added that researchers at the station helped to fine-tune double crop soybean production, develop no-till attachments and have contributed to many other innovations.

According to the college website, the center is the headquarters for more than 50 faculty and staff members representing eight different departments. The station consists of almost 1,300 acres. In addition to crop, beef and aquaculture research, the facility provides diagnostic testing services and develops agricultural educational programs. (Read a complete history of the center at https://wkrec.ca.uky.edu/….)

UK Extension has partnered with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to offer support for affected farmers. Those who wish to donate farm supplies should contact local extension offices. Extension agents will deliver products to the KDA for distribution to farm organizations working to meet the needs of impacted farmers.

Kentucky 4-H has a 4-H'ers Helping 4-H'ers Relief Fund https://kentucky4hfoundation.org/… that is collecting donations to help affected 4-H members, families and staff.

The Kentucky Division of Emergency Management is also accepting donations and relief effort volunteer applications. Individuals can offer to donate supplies or apply to volunteer at https://arcg.is/….

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture has partnered with the Kentucky Farm Bureau to develop a GoFundMe account at https://gofund.me/… to provide monetary support for affected farmers. Donations are tax deductible.

Individuals, who wish to make monetary donations to the tornado victims, may do so by donating through UK's Office of Philanthropy at https://uky.networkforgood.com/….

Individuals may donate to help affected UK students at https://uky.networkforgood.com/…. UK also offers the C.R.I.S.I.S. (Crisis Relief in Situations Involving Staff and Faculty) Program to help UK employees experiencing personal hardship. UK faculty and staff may request assistance at https://staffsenate.uky.edu/….

Individuals may also mail checks with a comment to support UK CAFE Tornado Relief to UK Philanthropy, P.O. Box 23552, Lexington, KY 40523.

Pamela Smith can be reached at pamela.smith@dtn.com

Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN

Pamela Smith

Pamela Smith
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