A group of agricultural economics graduate students from the University of Kentucky made their way to Hodgenville Friday afternoon. Many of the students were international and had never seen a Kentucky farm before.
Craig Infanger, an extension professor for UK’s Department of Agricultural Economics, led about 15 students around the bluegrass state as part of the 2012 Graduate Student Agriculture Familiarization Tour. Friday, he brought them to Shady Rest Farm in LaRue County.
“We have a big number of international students in our grad school program,” Infanger said. “We started this program because a lot of these students don’t have the foggiest idea of what a Kentucky farm is like.”
Countries that the group represented included Ukraine, China, Ghana, France and Taiwan.
The day at Shady Rest Farm was an effort to give the students more knowledge about how a large Kentucky farm is operated. They got to learn about the process by which the Ragland family, who owns the farm, is able to produce about 70,000 hogs per year.
The students also learned about the history of Shady Rest Farm, which has been in the Ragland family for 10 generations. The Raglands’ ancestors deeded their property in 1808, about the same time that the Lincoln family bought some land nearby.
“The Lincolns moved away, but we stuck around,” joked David Ragland.
Caleb Ragland, David’s son, gave his own reason why his family’s farm is unique from others around the state.
“You guys have heard the word ‘family farm’ before and it’s tossed around a lot,” he said to the crowd of UK students. “But we believe that’s what we are in the truest sense. We have zero off-farm income and we truly believe in the value of family and working together.”
For generations now, the Raglands have farmed their land in a variety of ways, but eventually transformed their farm into primarily a hog production facility, although about 2,500 acres are still used to grow corn and soybeans. A total of 3,000 sows (female pigs) are kept at the farm in their own gestation crates. Each is artificially inseminated to produce piglets, which are sold after they are about three weeks old.
After the family detailed how they raised their hogs, David further explained to the students how much the United States hog industry has changed since he’s been farming.
“Now, we have fewer sows in the country but more pounds of pork,” he said. “That’s just an increase of efficiency and you guys crunching those numbers helps us to do that better.”
Efficiency is something that these UK students could use in both their careers in agriculture, as well as their graduate studies, which student Xile Li compared to a marathon. Li is from the northern part of China and has been at UK for two years now working on her Ph.D. in agricultural economics. She was part of the Agriculture Familiarization Tour that came through LaRue County.
“I’ll probably go back to China after I graduate,” she said. “I like Kentucky though – I like the weather here and the basketball here.”
At the end of the day, the students enjoyed their time at Shady Rest Farm and were planning on heading to Jeffersonville, Ind. and Bagdad, Ky. after their Hodgenville visit.