News in Brief

Never Standing Still

photo of Marcus Tyler

Photo by Matt Barton

If Marcus Tyler’s youthful achievements are any indication of his future success, his prospects appear to be very bright. The College of Agriculture, Food and Environment figures prominently in his plans.

During his senior year at Bryan Station High School in Lexington, the honors student and future UK agricultural economics major was in the Education-Based Community Education program in Fayette County, an academic internship program that uses the classroom and the community to provide hands-on career exploration. In that program, he shadowed people in different professions. Vickie Gross, a state administrative officer with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service in Lexington, was taken with the young man.

“He did whatever he was asked to do with a great attitude; he has good skills to be successful at whatever he does,” Gross said.

Tyler has used his time well. During the past two summers he toured Spain and the western United States through the Black Males Working organization. And last summer, North Carolina A & T State University awarded Tyler a research apprenticeship, during which he researched agribusiness markets and created his own business with yeast and pastry products.

“I love business and economics, so it was fun learning about the different strategies I was going to use to attract customers to my product,” he said.

He spent the rest of the summer as an intern in the Mt. Sterling Farm Credit Mid-America office. Active in Junior MANRRS, Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences, in high school, Tyler received the John Deere Junior MANRRS scholarship for academic excellence, participation in extracurricular activities, and community involvement. Tyler plans to stay involved with UK’s MANRRS chapter.

The College of Agriculture, Food and Environment welcomes Tyler and other students like him into the UK Class of 2018.

— Jeff Franklin

spotlight logo

photo of Ann Leed

Photo by Stephen Patton

Ann Leed

Ann Leed is exuberant. Her laughter adds a running counterpoint to her words, which rise and fall like notes in a song. As academic coordinator for the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, Leed advises 190 students, leading them through a maze of options to what she hopes will be a successful career after graduation. And in her spare time, she teaches.

ANN: I’ve been here for about 2½ years. I came here from Mississippi State, where I worked as an instructor for four years. When this position opened up, it was one of the newer academic coordinators within the college. It was a great blend. It was advising and teaching and getting to work directly with recruitment, so I applied, and I was fortunate enough to get the position.

Q: Did you grow up in Mississippi?
A: No, I grew up in Eastern Pennsylvania on a small farm. Primarily we raised sheep. I was involved in 4-H and FFA on the livestock side. Then I went to Iowa State for my undergraduate work, and I did my master’s degree in swine reproduction at the University of California, Davis. So I’ve been around the country. (She laughs.) This is actually the closest I’ve ever lived to my parents since I left their house.

Q: How did you develop an interest in swine after growing up around sheep?
A: I showed cattle and swine when I was a kid, as well as sheep. When I got to Iowa State, which is the swine place in the United States, I realized that I really liked pigs. I did undergraduate research with them, and I enjoyed it. So now I teach our swine production class for juniors and seniors. It’s probably my favorite class that I teach here.

Q: You seem to genuinely like this job.
A: I really like the teaching aspect of working with college students and the advising and getting them on the right path, I hope, to success not only in college, but in whatever career they choose. I also love working with our faculty here. They’ve really embraced me. I get to work with them on their course designs and also help them with advising students. I like the college. I like that everybody works together as a team.

College of Agriculture, Food and Environment
Hall of Distinguished Alumni

The College of Agriculture, Food and Environment and the UKAg & HES Alumni Association inducted 13 honorees into the 2014 class of the Hall of Distinguished Alumni, the highest honor the college bestows. These honorees have had outstanding careers and serve as important members of their fields and their communities. Theyalso serve as models to students of the many diverse opportunities a degree from this college can offer.

2014 Living Inductees

James “Jim” Mahan

James “Jim” Mahan, ’67 animal science, of Lexington, has been an active and important part of Kentucky agriculture since his youth. After receiving his degree, Mahan devoted his life to his farm, family, youth, and agriculture. He advocates for youth leadership, having opened and shared his farm for many years with the local 4-H sheep club and provided leadership for the development of Locust Trace AgriScience Farm, a Fayette County high school. He also provided leadership and financial support for the construction of the Ag Pavilion at Masterson Station Park.

Herbert Ockerman

Herbert Ockerman, ’54, ’58 animal science, was born in Chaplin in 1932 and came to UK to play football under legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant in 1950, but an injury changed those plans. He went on to receive his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in animal science. Ockerman has had a distinguished faculty career in the Department of Animal Sciences at The Ohio State University, where he continues to teach. Through his philanthropic endeavor, he collects and distributes books to libraries throughout the world. To date, he has donated more than $850 million in books to more than 350 global destinations. Ockerman lives in Columbus, Ohio.

Glenn Allen Stith

Glenn Allen Stith, ’78 agricultural economics, is a native of Meade County. Immediately following graduation from UK, he joined Monsanto and has held a variety of positions in the company. At his retirement in 2010, he was vice president of commercial operations, North America and Latin America North, for Monsanto’s crop protection division. Stith also lends his time and talents to the country’s youth, especially through FFA, Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity, and the UKAg & HES Lincoln Trail Scholarship endowment. Stith lives in Ankeny, Iowa.

2014 Posthumous Inductees

Charles D. Bennett, ’46, ’61

Rose Mary Codell Brooks, ’38 MS home economics education

Jim Corbin, ’43, ’47 animal science

H. David Hilliard, ’38 agriculture

George M. Kurtz, ’37 agriculture

Ira E. Massie, ’52, agriculture, ’58 agronomy

William A. Seay, ’42, ’48 agronomy

Barbara Ellis Taylor, ’54 home economics

Henry D. White, ’52 agriculture

Patch G. Woolfolk, ’47, ’48 agriculture

Doe more information about these honorees, click here.

— Carol Lea Spence

A Living Lab

photo of rain garden

Photo by Matt Barton

The UK campus has storm water challenges, so the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment led a cross-campus collaboration to develop sustainable infrastructure to address these issues. As a result, they installed a rain garden, the first of its kind, on campus.

The garden, beside Farm Road near the Gluck Equine Research Center parking lot, will serve as an outdoor laboratory, providing a place for students to conduct environmental, ecological, and engineering research.

Faculty from a variety of departments contributed to its development, including Brian Lee, Landscape Architecture; Rick Durham, Horticulture; Brad Lee, Plant and Soil Sciences; and Carmen Agouridis, Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering. The Tracy Farmer Institute for Sustainability and the Environment coordinated the effort, with funding from Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government.

— Aimee Nielson


Shiver Me Old Kentucky Timbers

replica of the Mayflower

White oak is used in the hull of The Mayflower II (above). When the wood is cut and dried, the tyloses in the vascular cells shut off the pathways that would normally carry water. This makes white oak exceptional at keeping water out—something near and dear to a shipwright’s heart.


The original Mayflower that brought the Pilgrims to America is long gone, but her replica, the Mayflower II, carries her own historical significance. The United Kingdom presented the ship to the U.S. in 1957 to commemorate the deep ties between the two countries.

When the Mayflower II went into dry dock in 2013 for her annual Coast Guard inspection, the scuttlebutt around Plymouth, Massachusetts, was that the shipwrights would need some extraordinary white oak timber to repair about a dozen futtocks and 60 long planks in her hull.

What’s a futtock? UK Extension forestry professor Terry Conners knew—they’re curved timbers that make up the hull’s framework—and he also knew the wood needed isn’t available at lumberyards. The native New Englander, with family ties to Plymouth, immediately offered his landlubber expertise.

“Plimoth Plantation doesn’t know much about forestry or wood sourcing,” he said, “but I’ve got contacts.”

Conners had set himself quite a task. The planks had to be 26 to 32 feet long and 3.5 inches thick, with a minimum of 10-inch-wide heartwood along the length. This meant looking for some very big trees. To complicate matters, they had to be practically defect-free.

After countless phone calls and site visits, he located a sawyer in Georgia who could supply much of the portside planking. Conners really wanted Kentucky to supply some of the timber, however. UK’s Robinson Forest sounded like an ideal donor, but Robinson was clear-cut in the 1920s.

If a tree falls in the forest, will it be suitable for repairs on the Mayflower II? Terry Conners (center) and Clint Patterson (r) examine a white oak felled by logger Holger Groessler (l), of Maple Log Farms, who was helping with
the project.
Photo by Stephen Patton

If a tree falls in the forest, will it be suitable for repairs on the Mayflower II? Terry Conners (center) and Clint Patterson (r) examine a white oak felled by logger Holger Groessler (l), of Maple Log Farms, who was helping with the project.


“We don’t have the diameter or the quality timber that this particular project requires,” he said.

But Conners was buoyed by the news that Berea College Forest did. Clint Patterson, a UK Forestry Department graduate student and Berea College forester, tagged eight trees with potential, though no one would know for sure until they were sawn.

Because of their size, two trees were sawed on site to see if they would meet the Mayflower’s specifications. Conners took photographs and video of the boards, sent them off to Plimoth Plantation, and he and Patterson held their breaths until they heard back.

The wood passed muster. Conners was thrilled. It’s not enough to supply all the planks, but it’s a start, and more sawing is planned for this summer.

Conners is back on the phone, calling foresters everywhere to find the remaining wood, but he’s content knowing that wrapped around the Mayflower II will be white oak from Kentucky.

— Carol Lea Spence

An Organic Dilemma

Since most poultry breeds can’t get enough methionine—an essential amino acid—from their diet, farmers rely on supplements. Birds need methionine for growth, feathering, and egg production. Organic producers can add a limited amount of synthetic methionine to rations, but regulations may prohibit it in the future.

Without sufficient methionine, birds grow slower, which ultimately affects the farmer’s pocketbook.
UKAg animal scientists Anthony Pescatore and Jacqueline Jacob studied the methionine requirement of heritage breeds such as Black Australorp, Rhode Island Red, and Black Plymouth Rock. They found the methionine requirement is lower for heritage breeds, but not enough to make them viable alternatives, because they still can’t feed enough to satisfy industry growth standards.

“To meet the dietary requirement for methionine without using synthetic amino acid supplements, nutritionists would need to over feed methionine-containing feeds, which is not good for the bird’s welfare or for the environment,” Jacob said.

“In the future,” Pescatore said, “if organic growers are completely prohibited from using synthetic methionine, heritage breeds may be necessary, despite their slower growth and less efficient egg production.”

— Aimee Nielson

Native Bees to the Rescue (With Our Help) photo of bumblebee

Photo by Matt Barton

National attention has focused on the decline of honeybees, but native bumblebee populations are also struggling. Diseases, pesticides, and habitat loss or fragmentation are all plaguing bee populations. UKAg entomologists say native bees need to pick up the slack left by honeybees, but they need some help from farmers and homeowners.

“Native bees are becoming more important as we lose honeybees,” said Jonathan Larson, PhD ’14 turfgrass entomology. “Homeowners and gardeners who are interested in helping promote native pollinators should be conscientious about what they plant.”

Larson said native plants are a great benefit to these important pollinators. Native flowers and garden plants are easy to add into any landscape and possibly the best way to help the bees flourish. A range of plants that offer a succession of flowers will provide pollen and nectar throughout the growing season.

“You don’t need a large area to plant things that attract native bees,” Larson said. “You can start a pollinator garden in a small area in your backyard that gets about six hours of sun each day.”

Bees may encounter insecticide residues on the crops they pollinate or on wildflowers or flowering weeds that have been inadvertently sprayed. Many chemical insecticides used to control insect pests in lawns, landscapes, and gardens are acutely toxic to bees, which is why they have label precautions not to apply them to plants that are in bloom when bees may be present. It’s important to avoid treating blooming plants, especially with liquid sprays, as that could lead to bees feeding on contaminated nectar. Anyone using insecticides should carefully read the product’s label before applying them to plants that native bees may frequent.

“As native bees are solitary or part of small colonies, the consequences of being poisoned could be more severe than if a few honeybees from a 30,000-member colony die,” Larson said. “The old saying, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,’ rings true. If people use caution and don’t create scenarios where bees are exposed to insecticidal residues, then it’s fine to use insecticides.”

Many lawn-care providers use insecticides to control grubs and other pests. But they should understand the issue and be able to reassure customers their services don’t contribute to the problem, said Dan Potter, UKAg entomologist.

“Bees in suburban areas commonly forage on flowering lawn weeds,” Potter said. “Indeed, we’ve surveyed and collected dozens of species of native bees visiting dandelions and white clover in Central Kentucky lawns. Many of the species we caught are also pollinators of garden crops, fruits, and berries, and of ornamentals such as flowering crabapples and hollies. Bumblebees, for example, are especially good pollinators of tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers in home gardens.”

Potter and Larson said that with a few sensible precautions, like controlling flowering weeds with herbicides before applying insecticide, delaying grub treatments until after peak bloom of spring-flowering weeds, using granular formulations, and notifying homeowners to mow off any flower heads before or soon after liquid applications have been watered-in, it should be possible to use insecticides for grub and billbug control without harming bees.

“It’s important to remember that even if you think you are just one person following these considerations, individuals add up to change on a larger scale,” Larson said.

— Aimee Nielson

Cooking the Books


In Boone County, good food and conversation bring everyone to the table.

Diane Mason, the county’s family and consumer sciences extension agent, started a program called Cooking the Books in 2010 after racially charged events occurred in the county. Her goal was to help individuals in her community understand and appreciate diversity through a shared interest in literature and cooking.

“We are all in this world together and have shared goals of providing for our families and raising successful children,” Mason said.

Participants read a book about a culture or country and then, in teams of three or four, prepare foods inspired by the book. They discuss the book and its themes during the meal. While maximum participation for each meeting is 25, over 100 individuals have attended the program since its inception.

“Some people are hesitant to try the new foods, but they are here, and they want to expose themselves to something new,” said Mary Ann Wolfe, a longtime participant. “The people I’ve met in this group, I probably wouldn’t have met any other way.”

—Katie Pratt