Ten students from the University of Kentucky Agricultural Ecosystem Sciences (AES) studies program recently participated in an educational tour across Kentucky’s corn farms. Dr. Chad Lee, Extension Professor for Grain Crops at the University of Kentucky, organized the visits to provide students with practical insights into corn farming at three different farming operations: Hunt Farms, Lester Family Farms, and Sisk Farms. These farms, all of which are proudly represented on the board of directors for the Kentucky Corn Growers Association, were the focal points of the tour.
The “Farm Camp Class”, part of the AES Field Experience course and under the guidance of Dr. David McNear and Dr. Jimmy Henning, is designed to expose students to various aspects of farming, particularly those who do not have a farming background. Chad Lee led the tour for the day, allowing students to explore farms in Christian and Trigg Counties. The goal was to bridge the gap between classroom knowledge and on-the-ground farming realities.
Dr. Lee, known for his dedication to agriculture and the corn industry, believes in providing students with a genuine understanding of farming. He stated, “As we receive more students who are not from farm backgrounds, it’s crucial for the future of our state’s agriculture that we expose our students to the real-world intricacies of farming. It helps them appreciate the hard work, dedication, and innovation that goes into farming today.”
The tour started with a visit to Hunt Farms, where students learned about irrigation systems, guidance-driven machinery, crop rotations, and soil conservation. The Hunts also discussed their farm growth, on-farm research, and beta testing of farm machinery. Lester Family Farms offered insights into controlled traffic, strip tillage, and cover crops. Specifically, the Lesters addressed the process of transitioning management decisions in generational farms. Sisk Farms showcased water management for irrigation, strip tillage, and cover crops. The Sisks also discussed the importance of grain storage and the marketing of corn and wheat. All three producers shared challenges to raising corn and discussed the importance of volunteering in leadership roles in the community and in state organizations,
To conclude the day, Dr. Lee arranged visits to Siemer Milling Company and Commonwealth Agri Energy in Hopkinsville. Carl Schwinke at Siemer Milling Company highlighted the wheat milling process and discussed the many markets for wheat. In addition, Mick Henderson at Commonwealth Agri-Energy discussed how they use corn to not only produce ethanol but also dried distillers’ grains and carbon dioxide capture. Both discussed the importance of local markets that add value to wheat and corn.
In summary, the “Farm Camp Class” provided valuable insight for the students, who are pursuing careers with an emphasis on crop management. The tour not only helped deepen their understanding of corn farming but also instilled an appreciation for the corn farmers of the Bluegrass State.