PRINCETON, Ky. — The rebuilding of the University of Kentucky Research and Education Center in Princeton has begun. The UK center has done decades of research about no-till farming and how soil changes over the decades after tillage stops.
The UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment is working with the university’s insurance adjusters to determine the extent of the damage to facilities and equipment after the center took a direct hit from an EF-4 tornado on Dec. 10. UK officials expect 49 of the center’s 58 buildings to be a complete loss.
“We are humbled by the outpouring of support from across the local, state and national agricultural communities,” said Nancy Cox, dean of CAFE and UK vice president for Land-Grant Engagement. “We are moving forward and plan to build back a state-of-the-art research and education facility to continue advancing agriculture.”
Crews are now demolishing the remains of the center’s main building. The demolition process is expected to take at least four months.
UK officials are beginning to reach out to their equipment suppliers to replace damaged equipment. This process is expected to take some time as well.
“Since they are used for research, nearly every piece of equipment we had was a prototype, so we cannot replace them by going to a commercial dealer and picking one out off a lot,” said Chad Lee, director of the UK Grain and Forage Center of Excellence located at the center. “We are contacting the companies that we purchased these pieces of equipment from to see how they can be replaced.”
The college has established a rebuilding committee comprised of faculty and staff members from the center and main campus.
A couple of temporary office spaces are in place at the center and are being used by UKREC director Carrie Knott and other staff members. In the coming weeks, UK will install additional temporary office space and research laboratories so more of the center’s faculty and staff can safely return.
“We really appreciate everyone’s patience as we continue to work through the tornado aftermath,” Knott said. “There is no way the center’s faculty and staff will be able to offer their full spectrum of research and extension programs in the coming year, but depending on the program and the researcher, some activities are going to continue as planned.”
The next activity scheduled is the UK Wheat Science Group’s annual Winter Wheat Meeting, which is set for Feb. 8 at the James E. Bruce Convention Center in Hopkinsville. Unlike previous years, preregistration is required for the free event and is due by Jan. 25. Interested individuals may register online at https://bit.ly/3qORDdc.
The Kentucky Agricultural Training School programs will continue when possible. Center staff hosted a KATS Drone Pilot Certification Workshop in late December at the Caldwell County Extension office. Additional workshops are in the works and will be announced soon.
In December, members of UK’s Physical Plant Division replaced windows, siding and installed a new door and roof on the farm operator’s residence at the center. The farm operator and his family were back in the house before Christmas. The Physical Plant Division is planning to continue to help when possible at the center.
Individuals and groups who wish to help UK staff remove debris from the center should contact their county extension office for more information.