Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Ryan Quarles, February 7, 2022

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:01 - Family background and thoughts on agriculture in Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: This interview is part of the Western Kentucky 2021 Tornado Resilience Project.

Segment Synopsis: Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles talks about his family background as well as the scope and responsibilities of his current position.

Keywords: Families; Kentucky Department of Agriculture

Subjects: Agriculture--Kentucky; Farming

00:02:20 - Initial reaction to the tornadoes in Western Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: So, um, you know, speaking of challenges, we have the one with the tornado, that took place here in December.

Segment Synopsis: Quarles recounts how he heard reports of the conditions in Western Kentucky on the night of the tornadoes and the next day. He also talks about his office's initial response.

Keywords: Kentucky--Tornadoes; Western Kentucky

Subjects: Graves County (Ky.); Mayfield (Ky.); Natural disasters--United States; Tornado damage; Tornadoes

GPS: Mayfield, Ky.
Map Coordinates: 36.737778, -88.64
00:04:03 - Three primary stages of state government disaster response

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Partial Transcript: And just, uh, what were some of your fears, like after you took that next day?

Segment Synopsis: Quarles describes the three phases of early tornado disaster response, which involve human fatalities, loss of livestock including cattle and chickens, and structural damage to agricultural buildings including barns and granaries.

Keywords: Chicken barns; Granaries; Research and Education Center (Princeton, Ky.); Tyson Foods

Subjects: Animal welfare; Cattle; Disaster relief; Natural disasters--United States; Poultry; Tornadoes

00:07:54 - Problems with cleaning up debris and beginning to rebuild

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Partial Transcript: And that's another big issue, that a lot of our folks in western Kentucky start planting corn in the middle of March.

Segment Synopsis: Quarles talks about various problems cleaning up the debris and beginning to rebuild including the time of year, liability issues, personal safety, and insurance. He talks about items, services, and money that were donated and how those resources were handled and distributed.

Keywords: Debris; Fences; Insurance

Subjects: Corn; Donations; FEMA; Natural disasters--United States; Tornadoes

00:11:37 - Partnerships with Kentucky Farm Bureau and other agricultural organizations

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Partial Transcript: And how did you get that relation with Farm Bureau, how did that start?

Segment Synopsis: Quarles talks about the cooperation among local, state, and Federal organizations to move forward with cleanup, recovery, and general aid efforts in the affected counties.

Keywords: Extension service; Food distribution; Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund

Subjects: Agricultural extension work--Kentucky; Disaster relief; Kentucky Farm Bureau; Natural disasters--United States; Tornadoes

00:13:56 - Current and ongoing disaster response efforts

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Partial Transcript: And so, it's been about, you know, like I said, two months. What do you see in the future, what's your ongoing efforts for, uh, response?

Segment Synopsis: Quarles explains that the steps for continued area recovery over the next few months are continued debris removal, infrastructure rebuilding, and advocating for additional disaster relief funding.

Keywords: Debris removal; Infrastructure rebuilding

Subjects: Disaster relief; Natural disasters--United States; Tornadoes

00:16:34 - Response to natural disasters; community support and education

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Partial Transcript: This is not the first natural disaster during your tenure--

Segment Synopsis: Quarles talks about his office's planning and response to natural disasters in general, such as ice storms, flooding, and droughts. He describes how this disaster brought people together to help their communities regardless of their political views, and discusses how agricultural disasters can also serve as an educational opportunity.

Keywords: Agricultural education; Food chain; Food supply

Subjects: Agriculture; Natural disasters--United States; Tornadoes

00:22:31 - Continuing tornado cleanup challenges in the long term

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Partial Transcript: One sort of follow up, you mentioned that there's challenges with getting supplies.

Segment Synopsis: Quarles says his office is still dealing with ongoing issues including direct cleanup efforts and rebuilding infrastructure two months later. He talks about how long-term supply chain issues will make recovery increasingly difficult. Quarles says that in addition to the loss of human life, Kentucky agriculture has suffered a huge setback, particularly at the UK Princeton Farm.

Keywords: Kentucky agriculture; Research and Education Center (Princeton, Ky.)

Subjects: Disaster relief; Farming; Natural disasters--United States; Tornadoes