Agriculture is in Matt Chadwick’s blood.
So it was no surprise this week when the Calloway County University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension office announced that Chadwick would fill the long-vacant agriculture agent spot.
Born and raised in the county, Chadwick graduated from Calloway County High School in 2006 and stayed in the region to attend Murray State University.
From early on, he said, he had a driven interest in agriculture. Classes and his upbringing honed a knowledge of the land and the fruit it bears. That’s why Chadwick focused his studies toward the field of horticulture.
Chadwick had an interest in the region in which he was raised, and he said cultivating plants for human or animal consumption is in the heartbeat of Murray and its surrounding communities.
While in school and for some time afterward, he developed valuable skills managing MSU’s state-of-the-art arboretum.
His timing was impeccable. When the university decided to expand the horticultural display, public garden and educational laboratory located on the Pullen Farm north of campus, Chadwick was in a class that would help design the arboretum sidewalks. He said he helped oversee construction efforts, and not long afterward, marveled as students and staff helped materialize a large hill and pond from a small field – all a part of a living, breathing laboratory of which Chadwick was a part.
“I was really there from the start – from the ground up,” he said. “So it was really good to watch it grow and expand, and it was kind of bittersweet to leave there and come work here.”
His work at The Arboretum at Murray State University was crucial in developing his communication skills, he said. He was able to make partnerships with several community organizations – many of which he will work with now as Calloway’s agriculture agent.
He was hired to help expand the arboretum and bridge gaps and make the connections necessary to use it as a educational resource and community attraction. In some ways, he said, that is exactly what he will do for the extension office.
“I always thought it would be a very unique job within the community, where you could really make an impact within the field of agriculture while still staying in a community that you want to live in and be local,” he said. “It’s really one of the most important factors in local agriculture.”
Agriculture agents through the University of Kentucky-Kentucky State University partnership work to share farming and related research with the practical related community, helping to make the Commonwealth a leader in cutting-edge agricultural science on both research and educational levels.
“Agents create a link between the field of agriculture and the research that at the land-grant universities,” he said. “So we provide any information that we can to local farmers and home-owners as well. We’re the link to new research or anything that’s coming out that could potentially help a farmer or maybe help them get higher yields or better production numbers.”
And while Chadwick says agriculture is a vital part of what makes Murray and Calloway County what it is, he thinks a better understanding nationwide of plant production and problems facing the industry will help round out a healthier view from where people think they’re food originates.
He said that is precisely what he would like to see done in Calloway, where a more and more urbanized city is dependent on farming around it.
“I would like to see the community more involved and to help bridge that gap between the town community and the farm community. Murray is really good about that already, but I want to further help to develop that relationship.”