September 26, 2007 | By: Aimee Nielson

Ten years ago, Marion Simon was just trying to find a way to educate county extension agents about sustainable agriculture. She had no idea that a monthly program on the third Thursday of each month would evolve to reach more than 16,000 small and part-time farmers over the years. 

Simon is the state specialist for small and part-time farmers at Kentucky State University. 

“The idea was that the agents would come to the same location month-after-month and they could see the natural progression of the crops and livestock and be able to identify them,” she said. “It’s still a hands-on training format every month.”

Simon said a large part of the training has been focused on tobacco alternatives. The other part of the training always involves some recognition of forages and livestock at various stages. 

“We’ve covered more than 150 crops and enterprises,” she continued. “Everything from marketing and risk management to production agriculture. It’s a national model now.”

Simon said that people from across Kentucky have made their way to Frankfort for the monthly field days. They’ve also had visitors from seven other states and 15 countries.

Harold Benson, KSU Land Grant Program director, said he is overwhelmed and overjoyed that Third Thursday has been able to meet people’s needs for so many years.

“Anything that has a duration beyond a year is good,” he said. “Five years is outstanding and 10 years … and to still be able to say you’ve satisfied the needs of the people, and from all indications we’ve done that, is just priceless.”

Benson said the success of the program is due to a collaboration of professionals and resources from KSU, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Kentucky Department of Agriculture and many more.

“We’ve all come together to identify issues, opportunities and problems that affect all of us,” he said.

Benson and Simon both said the challenge for the future of Third Thursday will be accessibility.

“The only drawback, for the most part, is that the program has occurred in Frankfort at our farm every month,” Benson said. “I think our next challenge is how to mobilize this same effort and put it out in many of the counties throughout the state. I don’t want to change anything; I just want to make it more accessible to a lot more people.”

Simon said they are looking at ways to make the same type of program available in other parts of Kentucky.

Third Thursday primarily is funded through a Sustainable Agriculture, Research and Education Program grant. Other sources of funding come from KSU and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency. 

The program is on the third Thursday of each month, January through November, and begins at 10 a.m. at KSU’s Research and Demonstration Farm in Frankfort. For more information, contact Simon at 502-597-6437.


Marion Simon, 502-597-6437