Murray State and state ag deparment to boost economic development in agriculture

Posted on March 29, 2024 7:14 AM

Murray State University and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture have announced a formal partnership in advancing economic development in the agricultural industry. 

Murray State has one of only three Master of Science in Economic Development programs in the country. Since its inception in 2016, the program has graduated students from around the world from Kuwait to Colorado, and has been a tremendous success in educating, placing, and supporting economic development professionals to create and retain jobs, build wealth, and improve the quality of life for communities, regions, and states. 

Building upon the success of this program, Murray State and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture have collaborated in creating an agriculture-focused economic development master’s degree program. Both the Hutson School of Agriculture and the Arthur J. Bauernfeind College of Business have worked collaboratively in creating a career pathway to support this initiative.

“Collectively, agriculture is a multi-billion dollar industry in Kentucky and makes up our largest economic area. We are excited to partner with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture as we combine our respective areas of expertise in order to advance this important industry,” Murray State University President Dr. Bob Jackson said. 

“Murray State University has long been an institution that understands economic development, its strategies, its direction, its purpose and ultimately its outcomes for multiple quality of life measures and enhancements. Formalizing this focus between the Hutson School of Agriculture, the Arthur J. Bauernfeind College of Business, and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture will further open doors of collaboration and results,” said Murray State University Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Tim Todd. 

Agriculture production is very important to economies throughout the commonwealth and supports the significant potential of the value-added aspect of agriculture. Ketchup, not tomatoes, is an example of the value-added concept. The manufacturing sector that facilitates the value-added component of agriculture presents additional capital investment and job creation in communities across the commonwealth. Generally speaking, the recruitment of business and industry is a primary function of an economic developer. The development of an agricultural track in the Master of Science in Economic Development program positions the university well to prepare the agricultural-educated economic development professionals that the commonwealth needs currently and will need in order to grow the valued-added aspect. 

“Agriculture is economic development. Whether its row crop infrastructure, large-scale animal processing, food distribution or on-farm retail, economic development plays such a vital role in agriculture. This new degree will help equip our future farmers to enter the workforce with the tools and knowledge — creating longevity and profitability in the agriculture industry," Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Jonathan Shell said.

Murray State’s Hutson School of Agriculture is home to more than 1,400 students pursuing degrees in numerous agricultural disciplines. The school consists of three departments and offers a variety of in-person and online programs. The laboratory facilities include five working farms, a veterinary diagnostic lab, and vast opportunities for students to receive hands-on practical instruction in agriculture.

"We are very happy in the Hutson School of Agriculture to collaborate with our colleagues in the Bauernfeind College of Business and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture on such an important and impactful degree program. There is no doubt that much economic development in our state and region is rooted in the field of agriculture. I am excited to see where this partnership takes our students," Dean of the Hutson School of Agriculture Dr. Brian Parr said.

Murray State’s Arthur J. Bauernfeind College of Business is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), an elite distinction carried by only 5 percent of business schools internationally. The college’s enrollment of more than 1,600 students choose among six undergraduate and graduate departments providing academic programs over a wide range of majors, minors, and areas for professional business preparation. The college also hosts six centers focusing on the enhancement of educational opportunities for students as well as providing professional training and development to practicing professionals. 

“Murray State University and the Bauernfeind College of Business, take seriously their mission to improve the quality of life for our region and the commonwealth. This partnership will provide academic and practical support to those engaged in improving and enhancing our agricultural efforts,” said Dr. David Eaton, dean of the Bauernfeind College of Business. 

In addition to the academic aspect of the partnership, outreach programs will be developed for the enhancement of internships, mentorships, and placement of students throughout the commonwealth. Agribusiness training and consulting programs for farmers, as well as agriculture-based businesses and industries, will be developed and delivered from the depth of education and experience at Murray State. The development and delivery of outreach programs will be led by the Bauernfeind College of Business Center for Economic and Entrepreneurial Development.   

Chris Wooldridge, director of the Bauernfeind College of Business Center for Economic and Entrepreneurial Development, believes in the importance of agriculture and agribusiness to a region.

“Agriculture and agribusiness are tremendously important to local and regional economies in the creation and retention of jobs, the creation of wealth and the building of desired quality of life. We are very excited about being a part of the commissioner’s vision to grow this vital sector of the commonwealth’s economy,” Wooldridge said. “The support for agribusiness from the collaborative partnership of both the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and Murray State University will strengthen and grow the very important agricultural and agribusiness sectors of Kentucky.”

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