Nancy Cox, Dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment

Bang for the Buck

Leaders of land-grant universities are always concerned about what investments to make and what is the best return on investment, commonly known as “ROI.” We know that investment in agricultural research provides at least $10 back for every dollar invested. We know that extension programs increase local economies and create healthier communities. That “bang for the buck” is something our college thinks about every single day, as we try to add value to investments entrusted to us: funds from county, state, and federal sources as well as tuition.

This fall, we welcomed 492 freshmen into the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. They joined more than 2,200 undergraduate and graduate students already in our college family who are preparing to make a difference in the world. We strive to give them important experiences inside and outside the classroom. We’re proud of them today, and we know we’ll be proud of them tomorrow. For our students, we hope the “bang for the buck” is priceless.

But these traditional students are not our only students. We can also claim 4 million others. Through Kentucky Cooperative Extension, we provide Kentuckians of all ages access to our visionary research and programming in areas as far-flung as healthy lifestyles, family economics, natural resources, crop and soil science, animal production, and more. These nontraditional students gather in workshops at their local extension office or on university farms. They learn how to increase their crop yields, control pests and diseases, balance their bank accounts, manage their estates, and cook nutritious meals for their families. And through programs such as Extension Master Gardener or Master Food Volunteer, many of our students become volunteer teachers in their own communities.

Most of those programs and workshops are free, and if there is a charge, it’s minimal to cover materials. If you ask me, our college provides the state with a lot of bang for its buck.

This issue of The Ag Magazine looks at some of the many ways the college is taking our expertise and our love of teaching beyond the Lexington campus. In A Fix for a Promising Future, writer Katie Pratt describes the path of destruction that substance abuse has carved across Kentucky and the myriad ways Kentucky Cooperative Extension is assisting people in obtaining long-term recovery. This includes our hiring of the first extension specialist in the country dedicated to substance-use prevention and recovery.

In The Protectors, Aimee Nielson pulls back the curtain on the often invisible, but vital army of college scientists, lab technicians, veterinarians, inspectors, and specialists at the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and Regulatory Services. These dedicated folks are ready to sound the alarm and spring into action if something threatens the livestock and equine industries. They even protect our pets.

In Working Farm, Tiny Livestock, three of our alumni have started a unique enterprise in center city Louisville, a butterfly farm. Owner Blair Leano-Helvey first turned to a local office of our Kentucky Small Business Development Center to help her draw up a business plan. Today, with her business thriving, the entomology alumna says she still depends on the college to keep her up-to-date on the science. We’re happy to provide the specialists and expertise they need.

Then there’s Kevin Cornett in Clay County, who turned to extension associate Steve Berberich. Steve taught him the agronomics to successfully raise chrysanthemums and helped him get a grant from the Kentucky Horticulture Council.

These are our students. Some are 4-H’ers in elementary school. Some are young adults on the verge of great careers, and some are still learning and active into their 80s. When I think about the number of people the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment reaches on a daily basis, I see that our slogan is 100% accurate. It really does start with us.