New Alumni President
Says Alums Can Help Recruit, Become Donors
by Martha Jackson
s president of the Ag Alumni Association for 2003-2004, Dennis
Parrett '81 is intent on promoting what he has believed in as
a board member for more than 10 years.
big part of Parrett's agenda remains finding ways to support student
In 2001, for instance, through the leadership of Parrett and others,
the board created a new budget category that provides dollars
for student recruitment directly to area chapters. The money can
be used, for example, to pay for a van to bring a group of students
to campus for a tour or a student recruitment event.
Parrett was also part of the board's decision a couple of years
ago to earmark more money for recruitment for the College's Office
of Student Relations and state 4-H and FFA associations.
He believes that picking up the phone is also a good way to entice
students to UK and the College. "If I know a good prospect,
it's a big help to the College of Ag student relations office
if I just call and provide a name and address," Parrett said.
He thinks that if you're an ag alumnus, you have a perfect opportunity
to organize a student dinner in your area.
Parrett helped organize such a dinner in the Lincoln Trail Area
a few years ago. It was coupled with a local Preview Night for
prospective UK students.
He thinks the dinner was a success. "We invited the students
and their parents, and we answered a lot of questions. It helped
their comfort level, and we really had a high percentage of those
attending enroll at UK," he said.
Parrett also wants to see networking take place among alums. "I'd
like to see seminars such as the one held in conjunction with
the Winter Event continue," he said.
Parrett also believes alumni should be donors in the College's
capital campaigns because more and more, the College's progress
will depend on such gifts.
"It's harder and harder to secure legislative dollars. We
have to rely more on private funding," Parrett said.
As Extension moves toward larger districts to replace its current
area structure, Parrett thinks the alumni association has "a
decision to make" about whether it should continue to function
with the existing area chapters or move to something that reflects
the new districts. "As with any change, we need to talk about
it," he said.
Parrett, like many active alums, is a cheerleader for farming
and the College of Ag. Thats pretty good for a guy who lived
in a foreign country before he lived on a farm.
His dad, a Hardin County native, was career Air Force. Parrett
was born in California and lived in his early years "from
Turkey to Texas," including Alabama, Oklahoma, and North
When Parrett was about to enter high school, his dad retired from
the military, and the family went back to Hardin County and bought
a farm. They raised hogs, cattle, tobacco, and corn.
"I fell in love with farming," Parrett said. "FFA
had a lot to do with that."
A high school guidance counselor persuaded him to go to college
instead of joining the military, and Parrett went to Elizabethtown
Community College his first year. He transferred to UK and the
College of Ag his sophomore year.
"I thought I would be a number, get lost," Parrett said.
"I never dreamed college could be such a family atmosphere."
He got a job working at the Coldstream swine unit, which provided
an inexpensive place to live. The rent was $35 a month. The work
wasn't glamorous, but Parrett has great memories of the time he
"Living out there was so unique. We had our own little 'fraternity'the
students who worked with dairy cows, beef cattle, sheep, and swine
units, and those who worked with horses," he said.
The Coldstream bunch even had its own intramural sports team.
He was a member of the livestock judging team, which he said "goes
a long way beyond picking the best of four animals." That
work helped him learn to think on his feet and hone his reasoning
and oral presentation skills.
His senior year at UK, Parrett was president of the honorary academic
fraternity Alpha Zeta and of Block and Bridle. With Block and
Bridle, he got involved with the North American International
Livestock Expo, fund raisers, and charity drivesdelving
into the civic involvement he still believes in.
Parrett speaks highly of ag faculty he knew, including Loys Mather
in Ag Economics; Fred Thrift and Don Ely, Block and Bridle advisors;
and Frank Buck, Tim Stahly, William Moody, and Mack Whiteker in
When Parrett took a class that covered the history and function
of Cooperative Extension, he liked what he heard. Then, between
his junior and senior years, he did an internship with Breckinridge
County's ag agent. After Parrett graduated, he was hired as the
Hardin County ag agent specializing in livestock. Two years later,
he became the sole ag agent in Nelson County.
In 1984, he had a chance to go back home to Hardin County when
he and his wife Lisa married. Parrett took a job as regional feed
representative with Southern States Cooperative.
Four years later, he became manager of Cecilia Farm Service, a
fertilizer, seed, and farm supply business,outside Elizabethtown.
Four years ago he and Lisa became co-owners of the business along
with an Owensboro couple.
Cecilia Farm Service has been a success. Sales volume has risen
from $700,000 in 1988, when Parrett became manager, to $4.5 million
now. The customer base includes Larue, Nelson, Bullitt, Meade,
and Grayson counties as well as Hardin County. "We've grown
every single year," Parrett said.
Parrett knows that as an independent businessman in the farm supply
business he is part of what he calls a "dying breed,"
but he loves it.
||"Yes, you lose efficiencies and economy of scale,
but you gain a lot of intangible things. You control your
own destiny," Parrett said. "You don't have a
marketing plan or a management plan given to you."
He said he also believes that independent farm supply businesses
will re-emerge as a strong entity in agriculture.
The Parretts live on a 100-acre farm and lease another 200
acres, raising grain, tobacco, and beef cattle. The farm
supply business takes much of his time, but Parrett still
feeds the cattle every day, getting back to what started
him on his path to UK, to an agribusiness career, and continued
loyalty to the College.
"Farming is my way
to relax," he said.
Dennis Parrett at a Glance
President, College of Ag Alumni Association, 2003-2004
- Family: Wife Lisa and daughters Devan, Dayna, and Kristen.
- Education: West Hardin High School, 1977;
UK College of Agriculture, 1981 (major: Ag Economics).
- Alumni Activities: President, College of Ag Alumni Association,
2003-2004; president-elect, 2002; vice-president, 2000-2001;
president, Lincoln Trail alumni chapter, 1994, 1995.
- Civic Activities: Director, Hardin County Farm Bureau.
Member: Kentucky Council on Agriculture, Hardin County Conservation
District Board, Hardin County Planning and Zoning Adjustments
Board, St. James School Board.
- Awards: Hardin County Schools Distinguished Alumni, 2002;
Hardin County Distinguished Service Award for Farm-City Relations,
Kentucky Young Farmer Member of the Year Award, 2000;
Outstanding Young Alumnus Award, UK College of Agriculture,