PHOTO: Brad Beckman
Ten years ago, the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service gathered beef producers, extension agents and industry professionals in Asheville, N.C. near the world-famous Biltmore Estate to map the future of Kentucky’s beef industry. After all, things were changing in Kentucky agriculture back then. The tobacco buyout changed the identity of Kentucky agriculture forever, and the state’s beef industry was poised to elevate its profile.
There were several programs and ideas that came out of those meetings that have since helped advance Kentucky’s beef industry like the Master Cattleman Program, the Master Grazer Program and the Kentucky Grazing School, just to mention a few. Now the industry finds itself at another crossroads, and that’s why many of the same people met once again in Asheville, looking to build on the success of a decade ago.
The theme of the leadership conference was, “Beef - It’s a Brave New World,” referring to issues facing producers now, that weren’t part of the landscape 10 years ago.
“We need to empower a new group of leaders and new programs that impact the industry in measurable, marketable way,” said Les Anderson, UK extension beef specialist and chairman of the Beef Integrated Resource Management team.
But why Biltmore? The Biltmore has long been recognized as a self-sustaining enterprise that has profited from adding value to its many agricultural products. Beef, vegetables and other food raised on Biltmore’s farms are served in its restaurants. Attendees toured Biltmore’s farms and talked with Ted Katsigianis, vice president for Biltmore agriculture and environmental sciences and former UK extension beef specialist.
“The main reason we chose Biltmore, it is truly the best example of value-added agriculture in the entire country,” said Anderson. “Biltmore is the best example of total integrated management, not only with beef, but with grapes, vegetables and more.”
More than 100 participants attended the leadership conference that included members of UK’s Beef IRM team and county extension agents for agriculture and natural resources from top beef-producing counties. Most of the agents brought with them at least one person recognized as a leader in the beef industry in their county. Allied industry representatives from the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, the Governor’s Office for Agricultural Policy, the Kentucky Beef Network/Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association, Alltech and the Bluegrass Livestock Marketing Group also participated.
While attending the conference, participants discussed the critical and emerging issues facing all segments of the beef industry and developed a plan to address those issues. When participants left the leadership conference, they had a mission statement for improving the beef industry in their county along with an action plan.
Charles Miller, a longtime Jessamine County beef producer and participant in both conferences, sees many positive outcomes from the recent meeting, just like last time.
“A lot of those things that these counties addressed in their local areas as needs and problems are going to be addressed by this meeting,” Miller said.
The issues facing the beef industry seemed to be a common theme when participants broke into small discussion groups pointing to such areas as consumer perception, educating the public on agriculture and land competition. But with everyone thinking alike about issues they are facing, it made attacking the problem seem less daunting.
“That made me feel even better about what I was worried about because everybody was feeling that,” said SaraVard Von Gruenigen from Garrard County, a beef producer and loan officer with Central Kentucky Ag Credit. “So now we can tackle those goals and be proactive rather than reactive.”
Les Anderson, 859-257-2856; Doug Shepherd, 270-765-4121