"It's a good time for agriculture and an even better time to be at Murray State in agriculture," says the Hutson School of Agriculture Dean Tony Brannon. He joins Kate Lochte on Sounds Good to talk about another record year of enrollment, a new high profile crop approaching harvest and a fundraising gala for The Arboretum.
Preliminary figures are at nearly 900 students enrolled in Murray State's Agriculture program, not including the 300-400 academy students getting dual credits across the Commonwealth. This year, the school welcomed over 200 freshmen. They credit the growth to a push to reach out to students both across the region and statewide and the high profile recognition from agriculture leaders across Kentucky.
First in the Commonwealth, First in the Nation
Hemp. A new agricultural opportunity became available to Murray State University upon the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill, which made hemp production legal for universities and departments of agriculture. On May 12, Murray State became the first in Kentucky and the nation to put hemp seeds in the ground and have been cultivating 1.5 acres, which is almost ready to harvest.
Dean Tony Brannon says working with a new crop is nothing new, but this is a particularly interesting crop,because it was formerly one of the first billion dollar crops in the United States, as featured on the cover of Popular Mechanics 1937. One billion dollars then is roughly the equivalent of $137 billion today. And the number one place to grow hemp in the United States was Kentucky.
Brannon says they are working on where the plants will go after harvest. One of the primary options is to use the hemp for equine bedding. Hemp has a 400% absorbency rate, whereas straw has 100% and wood shavings have 200%. Remaining crop may be used as biomass to heat the equine buildings. Seeds may go to research labs.
Hutson Harvest Gala
The Huston School of Agriculture is inviting the public to The Arboretum at Pullen Farm for a fundraising gala supporting new projects at the Arboretum. There will be live music, comedic entertainment and a silent auction. The gala is on September 4.