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U of A and Arizona Farm Bureau on the Same Page March 22, 2013

By Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm Bureau


In February I was on a panel with Dr. Shane Burgess, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at the University of Arizona. Dr. Jeffrey C. Silvertooth, associate dean of Education for Economic Development and Extension in the University of Arizona’s College of Ag and Life Science, was also on the panel with us.

And, no, I was not the moderator. I was actually one of the panelists and the only one without a Ph.D. We were there for the 20th Annual High Desert Gardening & Landscaping Conference to talk about modern agriculture in the United States and Arizona. It was a tremendous honor for me since I have great respect for both Dean Burgess and Dr. Silvertooth.

I got to know Dean Burgess quite well when he first came on as the new Dean for the College of Ag and Life Sciences and I wrote an article (Q&A) about our new Dean for the land-grant university here in Arizona. And, I feel like I’ve grown up under the guidance and Ag leadership of Dr. Silvertooth. I’ve never had him as a professor (I rebelliously went to Arizona State University) but our families have known each other for years and he worked with Dad when Dad was manager of the demonstration farms at Maricopa Agricultural Center.

Dad has always talked with great respect about Dr. Silvertooth. So, though I’ve never had any of his classes, I feel as if I’ve learned from him.

Dean Burgess has an interesting background. A native of New Zealand, Burgess has worked around the world as a practicing veterinarian and scientist. He was the associate dean for strategic initiatives and economic development in MSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine and a professor in the department of basic sciences in the vet school. His areas of expertise include cancer biology, virology, proteomics, immunology and bioinformatics. Since 1997 he has written 110 peer-reviewed publications.

With Dean Burgess and Dr. Silvertooth of U of A.

He has been a principal investigator or co-principal investigator on more than $50 million in research projects from the U.S. Department of Agriculture,  National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Department of Energy and several European agencies. Burgess and his collaborators have worked on projects on cancer biology, immunology, virology, bacteriology, toxicology, bio-energy, and agricultural plant and animal genomics.
Dr. Silvertooth’s background is also extensive: Includes direct and extensive experience in Cooperative Extension, research, instruction, administration and service. Arriving at the UA with a doctorate in soil science/soil fertility from Oklahoma State in 1987, he worked as an extension agronomist in cotton for 14 years, eventually becoming a professor in the Department of Plant Sciences and the Department of Soil and Water Scienc.
Dr. Silvertooth has been professor and head of the Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science since 2000, where he has continued to teach and conduct research in crop production systems and management strategies. His frequent work with international programs, particularly in Mexico, has had a direct connection to his applied research and Extension education program. He believes that in the future the demand will increase for strong research, Extension and outreach programs that work with the public and business sectors in an effective partnership.
Though we didn’t coordinate efforts extensively on what we’d talk about, the synergy of each presentation was so interesting. First, Dean Burgess gave what I’d classify as a global view of agriculture and where we need to be in the next 50 years. His numbers and population relations with agriculture are revealing. If you ever get a chance to hear him speak, you should get a front seat as he’s extremely insightful, interesting and humorous!
Next, Dr. Silvertooth brought it down to what’s occurring with Arizona agriculture but also the need for advances in biotech crops (also known as GMOs).

I followed up as the farmer on the ground. I shared about our own family’s farm but also Arizona’s farmers and ranchers in general and what we’re achieving on a grand scale.

We presented a united front on what research, education and extension to the field is occurring. I can’t express how honored I was to be part of the panel. This little farm girl from small town Maricopa owes lots to the agriculture leaders all around. Even more, I owe so much to my parents.

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