National Ag Day is observed each year to recognize the role of those who work to provide the abundance of food and fiber needed to feed and clothe today’s world population. Few organizations across the Mid-South do as much as Agricenter International to educate students about where their fiber and food come from and how farmers work to ensure its safety and quality.
The Memphis-based, non-profit 1,000-acre research, education, and conservation facility is considered the largest urban farm in the country. Two years ago, fifth-generation farmer John Butler took over as president of the Agricenter after the retirement of John Charles Wilson, who is now president emeritus. “Education has always been an important facet within our overall mission to support agriculture,” says Butler. “This is our 14th year of not only celebrating Ag Day, but also holding our Ag Day Student Art Contest.”
The multi-purpose organization provides a variety of educational programs to over 10,000 students across the Mid-South each year, while its research staff conducts a broad range of agricultural research on cutting-edge technologies and products. “We provide unbiased research for agribusiness partners, universities, government and non-government organizations,” says Dr. Bruce Kirksey, director of research for the Agricenter. “We work with companies to provide data on their products that are working their way into the commercial pipeline.”
The Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) was one of the corporate sponsors for this year’s Ag Day celebration, and TDA Commissioner Jai Templeton was in attendance and spoke. “Based on the latest statistics, farms across Tennessee and the rest of the country are, for the most part, economically healthy, but in 1960, less than 50 percent of farms required off-farm income to supplement farm income. Today, that number has escalated to over 90 percent,” says Templeton, a sixth-generation farmer who produces grain, cotton, hay, and cattle in McNairy and Hardin counties. “Agricultural research being conducted right here on this facility will lead to greater on-farm efficiencies that farmers desperately need to increase their potential for profitability.”
Templeton encourages everyone he meets to support farmers’ markets, FFA, 4-H, and other ag-centric groups that are providing food, education and/or grooming the next generation of farmers and agricultural leaders. “With help from all farmers, we should be forwarding-thinking in our efforts and continue our work of providing reliable food, clothing, and fuel for today’s world population,” says Templeton.
The theme for this year’s Ag Day Student Art Contest was “Farm of the Future.” The students’ vision and creativity expressed through their artwork was both impressive and forward-thinking. Images from the day’s event have been compiled into a photo gallery.