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Planting seeds of ag growth

Slideshow: Kansas State University breaks symbolic ground for Global Center for Grain and Food Innovation in Manhattan, Kan.

Jennifer M. Latzke, Editor

June 4, 2024

8 Slides

Kansas State University has symbolically broken ground for the new Global Center for Grain and Food Innovation at its Manhattan, Kan., campus.

A ceremony May 17 brought students, faculty, alumni and supporters from the full spectrum of Kansas agriculture to witness the milestone that’s been decades in the making.

The Global Center for Grain and Food Innovation will be at the corner of Claflin Road and Mid-Campus Drive and will connect the current Weber and Call halls. Construction crews are already working on renovations to both Weber and Call halls, which will provide needed updates for student learning and research work. The center is expected to be completed by fall 2026.

According to K-State, the Global Center for Grain and Food Innovation will pull together faculty and staff from the departments of animal science — which includes food science, and grain science — in one location. It will also serve as a replacement for the aging Shellenberger Hall, longtime home of K-State’s Department of Grain Science and Industry.

Ag boom well underway

In the past year, K-State has undergone a building boom for its agricultural spaces under its Agriculture Innovation Initiative, which will create four new buildings and three remodeled spaces, according to the university. Previously it held groundbreaking events for the Agronomy Research and Innovation Center and the Bilbrey Family Event Center. Read more at Agriculture Innovation Initiative (k-state.edu).

The K-State Agriculture Innovation Initiative recently received a $25 million matching award from the Kansas Legislature. According to the university, in January the Kansas Legislature challenged it to raise $25 million in private donations for the initiative, and the state would match that. K-State hit that mark and to date has raised $176 million of its $210 million goal for agricultural infrastructure improvements.

Troy Anderson, Ardent Mills’ vice president of operations, was on hand at the Global Center for Grain and Food Innovation groundbreaking to make some remarks on behalf of the company, which has donated $3.5 million to the agriculture innovation initiative. He says contributing to K-State’s initiative is one way the milling company can help the students of today become the professionals of tomorrow who will help “nourish what’s next.” K-State is unique in the milling industry, offering the country’s only undergraduate degrees in milling science, bakery science, and feed and pet food processing.  

“These programs here need to be successful,” Anderson says. “And we’re just so excited about what it’s going to do for the next generation of leaders from a diversity and research perspective. All of those talents that are going to solve those problems we haven’t even gotten to yet — it’s all about nourishing what’s next.”

Ernie Minton, dean of the College of Agriculture, says the work to update and improve the facilities for agriculture programs has been a long time coming. This is the first step in transforming the university’s ability to meet the needs of students, and also meet the needs of Kansans and the world. The multidisciplinary approach to problem-solving that these facilities will foster will answer complex problems, he says.

Ag college aims to expand recruitment, retention

The College of Agriculture is working to increase student recruitment and retention. Minton says K-State’s reputation for excellence in its grain science and animal science programs is attracting many out-of-state students from traditional farm backgrounds. But, looking to the future, this initiative will also help the college recruit students from non-agricultural backgrounds.

“I think we have work to do with the urban students who don’t probably even realize there are opportunities in the grain and livestock food industry, because it’s just not on the radar of high school students,” he says.

The building boom on campus will bring state-of-the-art research and teaching spaces, upgrades to equipment and more. The Global Center will have a new retail space to sell Call Hall ice cream, and products from the bakery and meat science sectors as well; a pilot plant; modern milling and baking labs; and more. There will also be shared space in the building for collaboration between public and private groups.

K-State President Richard Linton called May 17 “a big day for the College of Agriculture, a historic day for K-State, and a transformational day for Kansas agriculture and our agriculture and food industry stakeholders.”

“Get ready,” he said. “Things are going to look and feel different at Kansas State University. Our agriculture impact locally and globally will reach new heights because of this project.”

About the Author(s)

Jennifer M. Latzke

Editor, Kansas Farmer

Through all her travels, Jennifer M. Latzke knows that there is no place like Kansas.

Jennifer grew up on her family’s multigenerational registered Angus seedstock ranch and diversified farm just north of Woodbine, Kan., about 30 minutes south of Junction City on the edge of the Kansas Flint Hills. Rock Springs Ranch State 4-H Center was in her family’s backyard.

While at Kansas State University, Jennifer was a member of the Sigma Kappa Sorority and a national officer for the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow. She graduated in May 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications and a minor in animal science. In August 2000 Jennifer started her 20-year agricultural writing career in Dodge City, Kan., on the far southwest corner of the state.

She’s traveled across the U.S. writing on wheat, sorghum, corn, cotton, dairy and beef stories as well as breaking news and policy at the local, state and national levels. Latzke has traveled across Mexico and South America with the U.S. Wheat Associates and toured Vietnam as a member of KARL Class X. She’s traveled to Argentina as one of 10 IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism. And she was part of a delegation of AAEA: The Ag Communicators Network members invited to Cuba.

Jennifer’s an award-winning writer, columnist, and podcaster, recognized by the Kansas Professional Communicators, Kansas Press Association, the National Federation of Presswomen, Livestock Publications Council, and AAEA. In 2019, Jennifer reached the pinnacle of achievements, earning the title of “Writer of Merit” from AAEA.

Trips and accolades are lovely, but Jennifer says she is happiest on the road talking to farmers and ranchers and gathering stories and photos to share with readers.

“It’s an honor and a great responsibility to be able to tell someone’s story and bring them recognition for their work on the land,” Jennifer says. “But my role is also evolving to help our more urban neighbors understand the issues our Kansas farmers face in bringing the food and fiber to their store shelves.”

She spends her time gardening, crafting, watching K-State football, and cheering on her nephews and niece in their 4-H projects. She can be found on Twitter at @Latzke.

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