March 21, 2017

Take the middle fork to a Kentucky Proud meal

From Kentucky Department of Agriculture
Lexington restaurant is planning a program to support local farmers

Mark Jensen, right, owner/executive chef of middle
 fork kitchen bar, and Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles hold
Kentucky Proud pumpkins from Stonehedge Farm in the fall of
2016 that Jensen used to make fire-roasted candy pumpkins.

In a world where many owners list their businesses and products in capital letters to draw attention, Mark Jensen has a different philosophy. It’s no typographical error that middle fork kitchen bar breaks a grammatical rule by preferring its name written entirely in lower-case letters.

“I suppose the lower case name is simply a reminder to stay humble, to not draw attention to the business,” said Jensen, owner/executive chef of the Lexington restaurant, “but to emphasize the process of our cooking and hospitality.”

Jensen isn’t comfortable with describing his Kentucky Proud restaurant as “farm to table.” He feels that should be the role of every restaurant.

March 20, 2017

Quarles participates in national ag summit on Farm Bill

From Kentucky Department of Agriculture
Kentucky ag commissioner part of panel discussion on bringing the next generation back to the farm

Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said today that industry and government leaders must do more to attract young people to careers in agriculture.

“We must do all we can to make farming attractive to young people so our country can continue to produce and export agricultural products to sustain us at home and to export around the world,” Commissioner Quarles said at the Agri-Pulse Farm Bill Summit at the National Press Club.

March 16, 2017

Ag Careers Profile: Retail Meat & Seafood Merchandiser

Joe Hildesheim has been with Kroger for 39 years and managing the meat and seafood merchandising of nearly 100 retail stores for the past six years. He got his start at 18 as a bagger, and has worked his way up through dedication, education, company management programs, and great people skills.

Joe did not come from a farm, but lived in a farm community and helped neighbors and relatives with farm work. He started working for a small Kroger store in Elizabethtown. The company had plans to build a larger store across town, and most of the employees figured they would be moving their jobs. They ended up keeping the smaller store, which allowed Joe to stay and move up the job chain, and secure a spot as a night-time stocker. This was while he was attending community college.

He ended up earning a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from the University of Kentucky, and kept his job at Kroger throughout his college career to ensure he would always have a job during the summer months.

He eventually went through management training within the company. Kroger has a co-manager training program, and Joe moved around the state working at different retail outlets to learn the administrative side of the business. Skills he gained were learning how retail stores operate and how to interact with people. He said even though he had to learn the food side of things, retail grocery is really about serving people.

Joe has worked in meat and seafood for the past 20 years, and he admits that meat retailing has changed a lot over time. He said challenge one is to figure out how to put meat on the shelf in a way that people will want to buy it, and challenge two is to find the right people to work behind the counter. Not many people want to work at a grocery store these days. That is why there are a lot more packaged meat items on the shelves today.

March 14, 2017

Consider agriculture's importance on National Ag Day and all year long

By Ryan Quarles, Commissioner of Agriculture, Commonwealth of Kentucky

National Ag Day is Tuesday, March 21, and it is a good time to reflect on some of the many ways agriculture affects us every day.

Agriculture is a major economic driver in Kentucky and the United States. Nationally, it is one of few sectors that can boast a trade surplus. In Kentucky, agricultural exports totaled an estimated $1.46 billion in 2015. A University of Kentucky report found that agriculture and related industries in Kentucky had an estimated economic impact of $45.6 billion and accounted for more than 258,000 jobs in 2013.

Agriculture, of course, feeds us all. We rely on farmers and food manufacturers to produce the abundant and affordable foods and beverages that we all depend on – and often take for granted. Thanks to the productivity and efficiency of U.S. agriculture, Americans spend an average of only 9.7 percent of their income on food – the lowest in the world.

March 7, 2017

Quarles praises legislature's approval of industrial hemp bill

Senate Bill 218 bolsters KDA's rapidly expanding industrial hemp research program

Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles today celebrated the passage in the Kentucky House of Representatives of landmark legislation that aligns Kentucky’s industrial hemp research pilot program with the federal Farm Bill and adds important law enforcement provisions. Senate Bill 218 now goes to Governor Matt Bevin for his signature.