New State Leaders
by Haven Miller
Richie Farmer and Keith Rogers, both with ties to the UK College of Agriculture, are holding the top agricultural posts in Kentucky state government. Farmer was elected commissioner of agriculture, and Rogers was named executive director of the Governors Office of Agricultural Policy. These two men will play a large role in shaping Kentuckys agricultural progress in the days to come. Heres what they had to say to the Ag Magazine as they began their new jobs.
Farmer Emphasizes Teamwork
Teamwork is something Richie Farmer 95 knows something about. The former UK basketball star, College of Agriculture alum, and new Kentucky commissioner of agriculture believes great things are possible when people work together.
Coach Pitino used to say that any time youve got a group of people working together to achieve a common goal, its amazing what you can accomplish, and I really believe that, Farmer said.
Providing leadership to one of the states most important agencies, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, is not something Farmer always imagined doing. After college he worked in sports marketing, then earned his securities license and went into financial planning. But a couple of years ago his dad told him something that would change the direction of his career.
Dad said, if you get involved on a statewide level and do something positive for the people of this state and make it a better place for your kids to live and grow up, that would be the greatest gift you could ever give them, Farmer recalled.
For the husband and father of three, those words made a big impact. Farmer said he chose to run for agriculture commissioner because its an office that affects a huge number of Kentuckians.
From food and agriculture, to regulation and inspection, to amusement park safetythis office affects every family in the state on a daily basis, he said.
While a student in the College of Agriculture, the Clay County native appreciated the camaraderie among students and administrators and the great support he got from faculty members. The Colleges environment was well suited to his own rural values and can-do attitude.
Farmer now will combine his love of Kentucky, strong personal values, and experience as a successful competitor to work for the good of the commonwealth.
Working together, its going to be unlimited as to what we can accomplish, Farmer said.
Rogers Ready to Make a Difference
While an agricultural economics student in UKs College of Agriculture in the late 1970s, Keith Rogers would return to Hardin County most every weekend to help with the family farm.
Id head home about 2 oclock, get in five or six hours work, continue through the weekend, then head back on Sunday night, Rogers recalled.
A product of East Hardin High School, Rogers was introduced to agriculture at an early age. In addition to being postmaster in Sonora, his father Charles also was a part-time farmer. Rogers mother Jackie was a UK Cooperative Extension agent for home economics. Younger sister Lorie 83 helped with the farm before becoming a UK agriculture student herself. In high school Rogers was active in FFA and 4-H and learned farming by helping his folks sell eggs, grow corn and tobacco, and raise cattle.
In 1979 Rogers decided his future was in full-time farming, so he left college and returned to Hardin County. His commitment during the next 15 years to farm, family, and community was noticed. In 1995 he got an offer from Rep. Ron Lewis to join Lewis staff. Rogers accepted and moved to Washington, D.C. But every Friday evening during the growing season hed leave his D.C. office, drive to the airport, and board a plane for Kentucky.
Id farm all weekend, get up Monday morning at 4:30, catch the US Air 6:30 a.m. flight to Baltimore, and be in my office in Washington by 9:30, Rogers said.
In 1997 Lewis tapped Rogers to be his district director, and he moved back to Kentucky. Today, seven years later, Rogers and wife Holly lease their interest in the family farm so Keith can devote full attention to a new and different challenge. To the long list of career accomplishments that includes being 4-H state president, successful farm owner, congressional staffer and district director, hes now added the post of executive director of the Governors Office of Agricultural Policy and CEO of the states Agricultural Development Board.
Rogers is ready for the challenge.
I describe challenges as opportunities, and Im going to make sure we take those opportunities and move our rural economy and agriculture forward, he said.
As the guiding force behind the distribution of tobacco settlement dollars through the Agricultural Development Board, Rogers welcomes the chance to have a direct impact on Kentuckys rural people and economy.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, he said. Im looking forward to it.