The ongoing revitalization of Princeton's agricultural research station has received a significant financial boost from the private sector.
Siemer Milling Company has announced a gift of $1 million to the University of Kentucky Grain and Forage Center of Excellence, the rebranded UK Research and Education Center off Hopkinsville Road in Princeton.
The announcement came Thursday at the Kentucky Commodity Conference in Bowling Green.
UK Ag Communications' Laura Skillman reported that the gift will be made in five annual installments of $200,000 each to support the Siemer Milling Company Wheat Producation Program Fund, which will be used for programming, equipment, outreach, and faculty and student support.
The conference center at the research center will be named the Siemer Milling Company Conference Center, she added.
Siemer is headquartered in Teutopolis, Ill., and operates facilities there, as well as plants in Hopkinsville and in West Harrison, Ind.
The company's operations employ more than 170 people and purchase 25 million bushels of wheat annually. That translates into the production of 750,000 tons of processed wheat products, including various types of flour, wheat bran and wheat germ, according to Siemer's website.
Siemer's western Kentucky mill opened 23 years ago to be closer to their largest customer, Skillman wrote. The company soon discovered the caliber of the region's wheat growers.
“Because of the knowledge base, geography and weather patterns in Kentucky, growers can get three good crops in two years. These growers are interested in growing quality wheat and essential to that is optimizing production techniques,” said Siemer President Rick Siemer, in the UK announcement.
“Innovative agricultural leaders in the area brought in best practices developed in the United Kingdom to improve growing skills in Kentucky and the university utilized and expanded on those skills.
“When university officials showed me their plans and vision for the Grain and Forage Center and I shared it with our board of directors, they said it sounded like a great idea. We are excited about deepening our relationship and support of wheat cultivation and growing techniques in Kentucky.”
Construction work on the local site continues, after ground was broken on the project last April.
“Among the improvements are updated and state-of-the art meeting facilities, laboratories and offices, and a boost to the center's high-speed Internet capabilities to allow graduate students stationed at the center to remotely participate in classes in Lexington,” Skillman wrote.
Work on the $30 million project is expected to be completed this summer.
Chad Lee, Grain and Forage Center director and a grain crops specialist at UK, expressed appreciation to the Siemer Milling family for their support, which will enhance the key roles that the grain and forage industries play in the state's economy.
“We appreciate the partnership that the Siemer Milling family has developed with growers, crop consultants, farm supply providers and UK,” he said. “Their commitment to sustainably grown wheat and strengthening the local communities where wheat is grown is an idea appreciated by all involved. We are humbled by their investment and look forward to our partnership for generations to come.”
Such industry-university partnerships are “crucial” to the success of the local facility's success, UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment Dean Nancy Cox noted.
“The agriculture industry in Kentucky has been supportive of our college’s research and outreach efforts for many years. This wonderful gift from Siemer Milling continues this legacy,” she said. “We are very fortunate to have a company in our state that provides a market for our farmers and understands the value of ongoing research and educational efforts.”