Agricenter's new Organic Resource Center

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 7, 2017

Agricenter International Establishes Organic Resource Center and

Hires Organic Resource Center Farm Manager

MEMPHIS, TN – John Butler, President of Agricenter International, has selected Chris Lankford to serve as the Farm Manager for the newly created Organic Resource Center (ORC).  The ORC is a new model serving as laboratory and demonstration farm, a place for additional collaboration between producers and consumers, and a hub to learn about new markets and emerging trends. 

Since its first agricultural research trials in 1984, Agricenter International has conducted field trials at its 1,000-acre campus.  Annually, Dr. Bruce Kirksey, Director of Research, monitors 11,000 test plots and works with over 50 companies.  The ORC is a new addition to Agricenter’s research and is designed to provide growers of the Mid-South with data that they need to be successful in producing crops organically.  The ORC will evaluate soil carbon stocks, greenhouse gas emissions and crop productivity between organic and non-organic cropping systems.  It will also establish a long-term trial to compare organic and non-organic cropping systems in a southern, sub-tropical climate.  The Organic Resource Center is a three-year grant funded operation funded by an anonymous donor.

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Dr. Kirksey states “We are glad to announce the expansion of our research into the organic arena.  This will allow us to fill a much-needed gap in the region.”

Chris Lankford, Organic Resource Center Farm Manager, has operated his family farm in Ripley, TN for 27 years. His farm supplied Memphis Kroger with trailers full of delicious Ripley tomatoes for over 20 years.  Lankford most recently comes to Agricenter from the position of Farm Manager at PictSweet Company where he grew sweet corn, edamame, turnip greens, collard greens, green peas, black eyed peas, and kale.  His responsibilities at Agricenter include managing the ORC, assisting in additional research, and various farm duties. Lankford has a degree in Plant and Soil Science from UT Martin.  

John Butler, President, said “I look forward to working with Chris and am extremely excited about how this research can impact the community and region. He will make a great addition to the team.” 

 

Agricenter International, the education, agribusiness, research and agricultural hub of the Mid-South has a $524 million annual economic impact on the region, hosts over 1.3 million visitors annually, and has educated tens of thousands of students.  For more information visit www.agricenter.org or call 901-757-7777. 

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Will hops find a home in Mid-South fields?

Reproduced from Delta Farm Press (original article can be viewed here).

Nov 9, 2017

By: Brad Robb

Bruce Kirksey crushes a mature hop “cone” between his fingers, lifts it toward his nose, sending his olfactory receptors into high gear, immediately associating the hop’s unmistakable odor to the distinct smell of beer.

Photo: Brad Robb

Photo: Brad Robb

Kirksey is the director of research at Agricenter International in Memphis, Tenn., which recently harvested its first crop of hops. Yes, hops. John Butler, Agricenter president, encouraged the idea of evaluating hops to capitalize on the growing trend of local microbreweries, the movement of eating locally-grown food, and the burgeoning desire of people to have a local flavor and taste in many aspects of their lives.

Local beers like Wiseacre and Ghost River, to Memphis Made (and my personal favorite) High Cotton, continue to endear consumer taste buds around the Mid-South to their unique and flavorful brews.

“Advancements in breeding have given us plants and cultivars that today break the boundaries of region-specific crop growth,” says Butler. “Barley has been grown in the Mid-South for hundreds of years for cattle feed, but malting barley is a new crop we want to evaluate.”

Agricenter International is known for its agricultural product/business development modeling concept. One of its goals has always been creating opportunities to increase diversity of local farming operations with minimal capital investment to increase farm-gate revenue.

The Agricenter makes a $524 million economic impact on the Mid-South region each year.

Getting Started

Kirksey grew five varieties offered by Great Lakes Hops. He planted five young plants of each variety that, based on his research, had the best chance for growth in the Mid-South’s environment.

Photo: Brad Robb

Photo: Brad Robb

“We decided to go with plants rather than rhizomes because plants grown from tissue culture are more disease-tolerant and prone to good plant health,” adds Kirksey. “Hops are a perennial crop, so this year we concentrated on cutting the vines back to promote strong root development.”

Hop roots grow 15 to 20 feet deep, and Kirksey is hopeful that type of robust root system will help plants tolerate Mid-South winter temperatures, as well as the brutal Southern summers.

Hops are typically grown in semi-arid regions. In the Pacific Northwest, they are irrigated and proliferate in the desert region of Washington. “Two of the five varieties we planted turned yellow and did absolutely nothing, so we know there are two varieties we can’t grow in the Delta,” says Kirksey.

Agricenter staff built the wooden/rope trellis system needed for the plant’s runners to climb. Young plants went into the ground around April 1, and hand harvesting began on Sept. 1.

“Vines feel rough to the touch, almost like Velcro, and they grow incredibly fast — almost 9 inches a day. You can almost see them climbing the trellis ropes,” adds Kirksey. “Varieties mature at different times, so harvest can be pretty spread out.”

Economics, Pests and Problems

Pest pressure was almost non-existent this year, but Kirksey stands ready for that to change in year two. While there are registered products for pest control, he may try applying dormant oil that is often used on fruit trees. The oil sticks to a flying pest’s wings, preventing flight and egg lay. “It’s a good and safe way to get protection and is used on many ornamentals,” adds Kirksey.

Butler has been in contact with a few microbrewery owners who think purchasing hops and barley grown locally, beer made with water from the Memphis River Valley alluvial aquifer, and yeast from the Jackson, Miss., area would be an effective marketing angle.

“We’ve got to figure out how to get the hops processed into a manageable form. Most hops are delivered in pelletized form for easy handling and measuring.

A business plan is in the works and Butler is trying to evaluate if there are producers around the Mid-South willing to adopt hops into their operations. “We’ve got to devise a way to dry them down and achieve the appropriate moisture level demanded by the breweries,” says Butler. “It all requires an assembly line process from harvest and grading, to washing and packaging.”

Then there is the problem of malting the barley. An operation in North Carolina that will malt barley by the bushel. Malting requires wetting the barley to get the enzymes to activate the germination process. “You then have to stop the process at the right time,” adds Kirksey, “That’s very important.”

Their work will continue over the winter months through an experiment with 25 winter malting barley varieties to see how they mature. If they perform well, enjoying a cold beer made exclusively from products grown locally in the Mid-South could be in everyone’s future. Cheers!

Farm Education Day set for Nov 15, 2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 8, 2017

20 years of “Farm Education Day”

This event has reached max capacity; however, media are welcome to attend.

MEMPHIS, TN --- The 20th Annual Farm Education Day will attract 554 students from five Shelby County Schools.  Specifically developed to reach the local urban fifth grade audience, they will interact with 12 exhibitors who are professionals in the field of corn, cotton, wildlife, poultry, honey bees, soybeans, farm equipment, produce, birds of prey, and livestock. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Agricenter “D Wing”

9:30am - 12:00pm

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Local farmers in the Memphis area are producing a tremendous amount of food and fiber, but unfortunately, many who live here never see the work that goes into the production that we depend on daily.  This event is done as a collaboration of Shelby County Soil Conservation District, UT-TSU Extension and Agricenter International.

Agricenter International, the education, agribusiness, research and agricultural hub of the Mid-South has a $524 million annual economic impact on the region, hosts over 1.3 million visitors annually, and has educated tens of thousands of students.  For more information visit www.agricenter.org or call 901-757-7777. 

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Agricenter ShowPlace Arena Undergoing Renovations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 11, 2017

Agricenter ShowPlace Arena Undergoing Renovations

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MEMPHIS, TN --- Agricenter just announced the start of renovations for the ShowPlace Arena’s warm-up barn and the interior of the main arena.  This is the first injection of public capital into the Agricenter since it was built in the 1980s. 

Collectively the cost of the two projects is $6 million, but each was separately funded and contracted.  Agricenter is managing the improvements to the warm-up arena (funded by a grant from the State of Tennessee) with design work by Fleming Architects and construction by F & F Construction.  Work will include a new fresh look to the warm-up arena exterior, new meeting rooms, patio, and entryway gate. 

ShowPlace Main Arena improvements are managed by Shelby County Government (funded by grants from Shelby County and the State of Tennessee).  Design work on the interior renovations are by Evans Taylor Foster Childress Architects and construction work will be done by Jaycon Development Corporation pending Shelby County Commission approval.  Work will include seating, updated and improved concessions, and restroom improvements.

John Charles Wilson, President Emeritus and project manager for the improvements, said, “This renovation makes us very competitive with arenas around the country and we have already attracted new shows here because of the buzz around it.”  Last week the National Walking Horse Association hosted a nine-day show and had an economic impact in the community of $200,000. 

Agricenter is currently in a Master Planning stage for the remainder of their campus.

Agricenter International, the education, agribusiness, research and agricultural hub of the Mid-South has a $524 million annual economic impact on the region, hosts over 1.3 million visitors annually, and has educated tens of thousands of students.  For more information visit www.agricenter.org or call 901-757-7777. 

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Agricenter Harvest Festival in its 14th year

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 10, 2017

Agricenter Harvest Festival in its 14th year

MEMPHIS, TN --- Fall is here at Agricenter and we are celebrating with our 14th annual Harvest Festival. Bring your family to this FREE child-oriented event.  Since 2003, Agricenter Harvest Festival has attracted thousands each year.

October 21

10am – 2pm

Location: Farmer’s Market Barn

Your child can paint a pumpkin, eat popcorn and cotton candy, play games, get their face painted, listen to a live bluegrass band, take a hayride, watch a cotton gin demonstration and participate in the mystery box educational activity all for free! 

Thank you to our generous sponsors of this event:

GOLD SPONSORS

Robert E. Hicks with New York Life

&

Helena Chemical Company

EVENT SPONSOR

Asgrow–Dekalb-Deltapine

Park in the ShowPlace Arena lot and enter from the east side.  Register for the giant pumpkin at the Registration table and get your free cotton candy tickets there.  Other concessions available for a fee.  Pictures from last year are here:  www.agricenter.org/harvestfestival.

Agricenter International, the education, agribusiness, research and agricultural hub of the Mid-South has a $524 million annual economic impact on the region, hosts over 1.3 million visitors annually, and has educated tens of thousands of students.  For more information visit www.agricenter.org or call 901-757-7777. 

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Agricenter ShowPlace Arena Hosting National Walking Horse Association

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 6, 2017

Agricenter ShowPlace Arena Hosting National Walking Horse Association

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MEMPHIS, TN --- From October 2 through 7, the National Walking Horse Association competition will be going on at ShowPlace Arena in the indoor and outdoor arenas.  This national competition attracts over 200 contestants from 18 states.  They compete in categories of dressage, trail pleasure, country pleasure, park lite, western dressage, trail obstacle, pleasure driving, and others.

National Walking Horse Association show manager Sue Fanelli said, “The NWHA is so very pleased to be able to come to Memphis for our national show.  Agricenter ShowPlace Arena has been super accommodating and we have a lovely venue to show our naturally gaited horses.”

ShowPlace Arena Manager, Jamie White added, “We are honored the NWHA chose ShowPlace Arena to host their national competition and we look forward to continuing our relationship with them.” 

This event has an economic impact of over $200,000 for the local economy. Spectators are welcome and admission is free.  Click here for the schedule:

www.thenwhanational.com

ShowPlace Arena, run by Agricenter International, averages 212 event days and draws more than 200,000 visitors annually. Equestrian shows, fairs, circuses, and rodeos all use the arena.  With the modular flooring, the arena is also ideal for trade shows, concerts, and graduations. 

 

Agricenter International, the education, agribusiness, research and agricultural hub of the Mid-South has a $524 million annual economic impact on the region, hosts over 1.3 million visitors annually, and has educated tens of thousands of students.  For more information visit www.agricenter.org or call 901-757-7777. 

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Agricenter Awarded $85,000 Community Enhancement Grant

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 26, 2017

Agricenter Awarded Community Enhancement Grant

MEMPHIS, TN --- On Monday, the Shelby County Commission voted to award an $85,000 Community Enhancement Grant to Agricenter International for a capital improvement project to install steps at ShowPlace Arena and finish paving the parking lot.

Agricenter International, a non-profit dedicated to agricultural research, education, and conservation gives a special thanks to grant sponsors Chairman Heidi Shafer, Commissioners Terry Roland, David Reaves, and George Chism

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Chairman Shafer stated, “Agricenter is dear to my heart and this project is a good common sense physical project that will help draw in more tourist dollars.  I want to thank my fellow Commissioners for allowing me to dedicate a portion of District 5's grant money so all citizens can enjoy it.”

ShowPlace Arena, run by Agricenter International, averages 212 event days and draws more than 200,000 visitors annually. Equestrian shows, fairs, circuses, and rodeos all use the arena.  With the modular flooring, the arena is also ideal for trade shows, concerts, and graduations. 

John Butler, President of Agricenter International stated, “We are pleased to receive this grant from the Shelby County Commission and look forward to installing these much-needed improvements to our campus.” 

 

Agricenter International, the education, agribusiness, research and agricultural hub of the Mid-South has a $524 million annual economic impact on the region, hosts over 1.3 million visitors annually, and has educated tens of thousands of students.  For more information visit www.agricenter.org or call 901-757-7777. 

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Join us for the Agricenter Sunflower Trail Ribbon Cutting

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 31, 2017

Agricenter Sunflower Trail Ribbon Cutting

MEMPHIS, TN --- You are invited to join Mayor Mark Luttrell, Commissioner Heidi Shafer, and Agricenter President John Butler for the Agricenter Sunflower Trail ribbon cutting on September 5 at 9am.  All Commissioners, media, tenants, bicyclists, and public are invited.

September 5th

9:00 – 9:15am

Near the Solar Farm (follow signs for parking)

This trail, funded by a 2016 Shelby County Commission Community Enhancement Grant and IOBY contributors, is a Greenprint Certified Project.  Project partners include Shelby County Government.

Mayor Mark H. Luttrell, Jr., said “Investments like this will help us achieve our comprehensive vision to connect communities not just for recreation, but for quality of life, environmental protection, improvement of health, and economic development.”

Chairman-Elect Heidi Shafer stated, “Connecting the Agricenter Farmer's Market to the Greenline makes good sense, giving walkers and bike riders reliable access to fresh foods right here in District 5. I want to thank my fellow Commissioners for allowing me to dedicate District 5's portion of the grant money to physical projects that all citizens can enjoy.”

The trail showcases the agricultural character of the region and will delight the traveler with sights of production crops, research plots, and the solar farm.  The trail leads from the Wolf River at the south side of the property, past the sunflower field, to the Farmer’s Market, past the solar farm, past more sunflowers and Catch’em Lakes.  At the light on Farm Road the trail connects to Shelby Farms Park and to the Greenline.

Christine Donhardt, Director of Communications, said “We are thrilled to provide this amenity to the public while showcasing agriculture and connecting with the regionwide network of greenspaces.”

 

Agricenter International, a 1,000 acre farm, is a non-profit dedicated to agricultural research, education, and conservationIt has a $524 million annual economic impact on the region, hosts over 1.3 million visitors annually, and has educated tens of thousands of students. For more information visit www.agricenter.org or call 901-757-7777.

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Science of the Solar Eclipse

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 18, 2017

Science of the Solar Eclipse

MEMPHIS, TN --- On Monday, August 21 (9:30 – 11:00am), Agricenter International will host 675 students for a pre-eclipse STEM class on the science of the solar eclipse.  The class is at capacity with: Granville T. Woods Academy, Kate Bond Middle, Belle Forest Community School, Evans Elementary, Hickory Ridge Middle, Brewster Elementary, and home school groups from HomeLife Academy and Homeschool Roster.  Students from Shelby County 4-H, Shelby County 4-H Forestry and Wildlife Group, and Crittenden County 4-H will also be there. 

Tim Roberts, Director of Education for Agricenter International, said, “We are thrilled that the eclipse will be crossing overhead and are looking forward to teaching students the science behind what is going to happen on Monday.”

The STEM class will feature speakers from the National Weather Service and UT-Extension who will discuss the sun, what an eclipse is, the types of the eclipse, the rarity of total eclipses, and what we will see in the Mid-South.  Students will learn what is happening to the flora and fauna on the farm during the eclipse and what will happen with the Solar Farm. Each student will be given a Pin Hole projector to safely view the eclipse and take a photo of the event that they will be able to keep as a souvenir. 

The session is full; however, the media is welcome to join.

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Farmer's Market - Tote Bag promotion

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 1, 2017

Celebrating 31 years of the Agricenter Farmer's Market!

MEMPHIS, TN --- Agricenter Farmer's Market is the oldest continuously operated market in Shelby County.  Established in 1986, the Agricenter Farmer's Market has been an important venue not only for customers but vendors as well!  Read about our farmer’s here: www.agricenter.org/meetyourfarmer.

Shop the market Wednesday, August 2nd for your

FREE Farmer’s Market cotton tote bag, with purchase,

for the first 400 customers (Limit one per customer per day)

Mark Hoggard, Agricenter Farmer's Market Manager, says “We have a great group of farmers who have been vending at the market for many years, plus we have over 40 craft vendors who join us on Saturdays. They all abide by the stipulation that their product must be farm-raised, homegrown, or handcrafted by them.”

The Farmer’s Market is open Monday - Friday 7:30 am to 5:30 pm and Saturdays (with added craft vendors) from 7:00 am to 5:30 pm. 

Enjoy a look back at the early years of the market here:  www.agricenter.org/history.

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Sunflowers in full bloom!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 14, 2017

Sunflowers in full bloom!

MEMPHIS, TN --- Three acres of sunflowers are ablaze in color this morning at Agricenter International. They are expected to last 3 weeks.  Over 78,000 sunflower seeds were planted this year for the community to enjoy!  Please do not pick sunflowers, but photography is allowed.  Sunflowers are located along Walnut Grove Road and Germantown Parkway with the largest field being accessible either by the parking lot at Walnut Bend or along Smythe Farm Road.  Next to the sunflower field on Germantown Parkway is a patch of cotton which will be available for photos in the fall. 

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Over $80,000 Raised for Education at Agricenter’s Feast on the Farm

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 21, 2017

Over $80,000 Raised for Education at Agricenter’s Feast on the Farm

MEMPHIS, TN --- With hundreds of sunflowers adorning the Expo Center, nearly 350 guests helped raise over $80,000 in net proceeds for Agricenter International’s education program at the June 10th Feast on the Farm gala. Guests dined on a myriad of tastings from the area’s finest chefs while bidding on unique silent auction items.  The spirited live auction led by Jeff Morris of Morris Auction Group captivated bidders with hunting trips, diamonds, and sporting adventures.  Entertainment by the Wolf River Rednecks rounded out the fun-filled evening.

All proceeds from the event support Agricenter International’s education program. Agricenter is a non-profit dedicated to agricultural research, education, and conservation which has educated tens of thousands of students.

The event was made possible by generous event sponsors including Platinum Sponsor Helena Chemical, Gold Sponsor Bayer Bee Care, and Bronze Sponsors Robert E. Hicks with New York Life, Cargill, and Asgrow-DEKALB-Deltapine. 

As the evening’s emcee, Jeremy Park, President of cityCURRENT, gave special thanks on behalf of the Agricenter to Featured Sponsors Hicks Convention Services and Special Events, Nolan Production Group, and Michael Francis’ Heart and Soul Catering.

Contributing sponsors include Doron Diamonds Direct, Ducks Unlimited, Archer Malmo, National Cotton Council of America, Morgan’s Fudge, Arrowhead Nursery, Wiseacre Brewery, La Vieille Ferme, Safety Quip, Maxwell Concessions, Premium Refreshment Service, Rocky Branch Farm, and Coca-Cola.

Additional auction items are available for online bidding today through Monday at 8pm at http://FeastFarm.gesture.com or by texting FeastFarm to 52182.

Photos from the evening can be viewed on our Facebook page here:  http://ow.ly/FcbM30cKbv6

Agricenter International, a 1,000 acre farm, is a non-profit dedicated to agricultural research, education, and conservationIt has a $524 million annual economic impact on the region, hosts over 1.3 million visitors annually, and has educated tens of thousands of students. For more information visit www.agricenter.org or call 901-757-7777.

Agricenter Jr Fishing Rodeo May 20, 2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 17, 2017

Agricenter’s Junior Fishing Rodeo

Saturday, May 20, 2017

7am-10am

MEMPHIS, TN --- Join us for a day of fishing and fun at Agricenter’s Catch'em Lakes on Saturday, May 20th!  There will be door prizes as well as awards for the first catfish, the largest catfish, and the most catfish caught!  This event is rain or shine. New this year, only one age group (5-13 years) will be eligible to participate. 

Thank you to our gold sponsor Helena Chemical Company!

Schedule:

7:00 am- Registration

7:30 am - 9:00 am - Fishing

9:00 am - 10:00 am - Measuring and prizes

Print out the registration form (one per child) located at www.agricenter.org/rodeo and bring it with you the day of the event. Copies will also be available on site.  A $10 donation (per child) is encouraged.  All proceeds go to our education programs. We accept checks, cash, and credit cards. 

Agricenter International, a 1,000 acre farm, is a non-profit dedicated to agricultural research, education, and conservationIt has a $524 million annual economic impact on the region, hosts over 1.3 million visitors annually, and has educated tens of thousands of students. For more information visit www.agricenter.org or call 901-757-7777.

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