UTIA’s Statewide Impact

Category: Features

By Beth Davis

Communication and collaboration are hallmarks for the UT Institute of Agriculture and its influence across the state. With staff and offices in all 95 counties, at 10 research centers located in strategic agricultural areas and throughout two colleges, these are staples of the work we do. Current collaborations with UT Knoxville and UT Southern are increasing our impact and expanding our reach.

A combined effort of the UT Institute of Agriculture, the Herbert College of Agriculture and the UT Knoxville College of Education, Health and Human Sciences is expected to culminate later this year in a grand opening of the reimagined UT Creamery. It will include an ice cream making facility in the Food Sciences Building on River Drive and an ice cream shop and boutique in the UT Culinary Institute and Creamery building on Neyland Drive.

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This endeavor brings agriculture and retail together to allow students from many majors to benefit experiential learning opportunities. Students will be involved at every step of the process—agricultural business management, food safety, food production, product development, taste testing, marketing, packing and retail sales. Food science students will contribute to production and food safety, while student fellows in Department of Retail, Hospitality and Tourism Management’s Rocky Top Institute will learn real-time retail business and management skills.

Another partnership is creating opportunities for a different kind of student – farmers and producers hoping to add value and grow their farm enterprises. The Reaching Local Farms Initiative is a recently developed collaboration between UT Extension’s Center for Profitable Agriculture and UT Southern’s Turner Center for Rural Vitality.

Together, these two entities support agricultural farmers and producers in the southern Middle Tennessee region and across the state. In the spring of 2022, the Reaching Local Farms Initiative offered the second round of a series of webinars aimed to address topics like specialty crop production, meat marketing, modern farming technology and carbon markets. These areas have great impacts for farmers and farm families and the collaboration between UT Extension and UT Southern capitalizes on the reputation both entities have as resources for research-backed farming solutions.