Haskell ag lab draws crowd pleased that facility survived

August 17, 2018

CONCORD — The University of Nebraska’s Haskell Agricultural Laboratory here was host Tuesday to hundreds of people from across Nebraska. They came to see the work of Extension specialists as well as the work of the lab, which is carrying on its mission after being placed on the chopping block earlier this year.

Extension specialists showed off their research to the many visitors Tuesday. Among the many displays included a machine showing water systems, a model of a milkable cow, solar technology and dozens of plant species at the lab’s arboretum.

There was also a mobile beef lab, featuring a fistulated cow. That’s a cow with an opening, called a fistula, that allowed people to feel the cow’s internal organs.

Extension educators came from across the state, including from Burwell, Omaha and many from across Northeast Nebraska.

Several gave lectures about their research on climate and its effects on agriculture, which was a central theme for the event. Speakers included Larry Howard, Tom Hunt, Stevan Knezevic, Charles Shapiro and Jim Jansen.

The field day also featured a pair of keynote speakers from UNL.

One was Al Dutcher, a climatologist, who examined the cool spring and hot summer this year, and looked ahead to the coming year.

Mike Boehm, vice chancellor of the university’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, also spoke to a crowd of more than 100 people about the mission of the university, talking about the importance of education and the ag lab in the lives of Nebraskans.

“Nebraskans have shown me their passion for this place and what they’re doing,” Boehm said.

Boehm said that investment in education starts from birth. He said that children with difficult childhoods have less vocabulary when they start school and that deficiency can eventually snowball.

He said kids who aren’t literate by fourth grade are four times less likely to graduate high school, and people who don’t graduate high school are more than 60 times more likely to be in prison at some point.

“We want to be able to help and have an impact on everyone from preschool to those with doctorates and everywhere in between,” Boehm said.

Boehm also highlighted the mission and purpose of the ag lab, which faced closure after university’s budget cuts initially were proposed last year. Ultimately, the Legislature did not cut as much as asked by Gov. Pete Ricketts, saving Haskell Ag Lab for the time being.

Boehm, a native of Ohio, has only been at UNL for 19 months but has already visited nearly every county and met with thousands of Nebraskans who want to protect the future of the university and Extension.

Boehm said that the next step is to continue having “grassroots conversations” between the public and the university and generate a vision for the future of the lab and the region.

“We need to figure some things out as a community before 90-day session (of the Legislature),” Boehm said. “But I’m confident we can all get there, and have a vision for the 217,000 people that call Northeast Nebraska home.”

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