Recently there has been a lot of excitement over Dr. Kayse Shrum and her selection as the new and first-ever female president of Oklahoma State University. Not too long ago, I had the opportunity to hear from Dr. Shrum with several other agriculturalists. I was incredibly impressed with her, and her efforts for rural Oklahoma and the agriculture industry as a whole.
The first thing I noticed that really intrigued me about Dr. Shrum was her family background in Oklahoma and at OSU. I didn't know she was a softball player and first-generation graduate of OSU, or that she grew up in Coweta amongst farmers and ranchers. In short, I didn't realize the depth of her roots in rural Oklahoma until that day.
I was already impressed with Dr. Shrum for her many years of dedicated work, but when I realized how deeply she cares for rural Oklahoma, my respect for her was brought to a whole new level. She talked about her history in Oklahoma and at OSU, and touched on her family ties to the school and agriculture. Two of her kids attended the school of agriculture at OSU and she recognizes how important the school is to our state's success. Her words really stuck with me and reminded me that the work our agriculture industry does serves people across the globe. It was refreshing to hear her talk so highly of a school and field that I know is so important and often misrepresented.
Dr. Shrum has shown a commitment to rural Oklahoma in more ways than one. While she was president of the OSU medical school, she started a program called Blue Jackets to White Coats after recognizing the lack of healthcare in rural Oklahoma. This program takes some of the sharpest FFA kids in Oklahoma and gives them the push they need to succeed. Dr. Shrum made it clear that she understands the importance of ag to a land grant institution. She is keen on including rural input in her decision-making and program implementation despite the bureaucratic obligations surrounding her.
Her presence in such a high leadership role is a massive win for rural Oklahoma and the ag industry. She really gets the mission of extension and how proper modernization could hugely impact not only the agricultural and rural communities, but the whole state and region.
As someone who works to advocate for our rural Oklahoma and agricultural businesses, hearing Dr. Shrum was like a breath of fresh air. It gave me hope to know someone within state leadership sees us, looks out for our interests and understands our importance. Oklahoma is lucky to have a strong-minded and empowered leader to advocate for our best interests.
Her roots in and commitment to rural Oklahoma are unique and exciting for the ag community. She knows our duty to the people of Oklahoma and beyond, and she represents our community well, surpassing what I ever expected. I am looking forward to many years of watching and working alongside Dr. Shrum for the betterment of Oklahoma, from our smallest rural communities to the entire agricultural industry.
RJ Gray, President & CEO
The article “Colorado’s ‘rebel’ farmers – I’d like to see industrial farming go extinct” got my attention in Apple News recently. The article discusses Mr. Jake Takiff's "regenerative" farming practices and, on the surface, it seems that his views are pretty similar to every farmer I have met. He discusses the cultural values of living and raising a family on the farm, soil health, protein’s impact on the economic health of the farm, and the overall commitment and work ethic it takes to be a professional farmer.
In my almost 38 years of life growing up in and around agriculture – two decades of that, working directly with farmers and their farmer-owned businesses – I can honestly say that I have never met a farmer without those same concerns.
They also believe that soil health is of the utmost importance to their operation; they believe proper, humane care of livestock is of the utmost importance to the financial growth and sustainability of their operation; and they also believe that farming is a way of life and teaches life lessons that our culture does not such as a strong work ethic, commitment, and managing multiple things at one time.
I felt connected to Jake – right up until he alienated his peers.