Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Chad Lee, February 11, 2022

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Search this Index
00:00:00 - Lee's research

Play segment

Partial Transcript: This interview is part of the Western Kentucky 2021 Tornado Resilience project. I'm Morgan Hayes.

Segment Synopsis: Lee discusses his research as part of the University of Kentucky's Plant and Soil Science department. He explains the importance of the Princeton farm's location, and what they have been able to do with its lab and farm. Lee discusses the farm's no-till process and its impact around the world.

Keywords: Corn research; Kentucky agriculture; Soybean research; Wheat research

Subjects: Agriculture--Research--On-farm.; Agriculture--Research--United States.; Agriculture--Study and teaching--Activity programs.; Corn.; Farms--Research.; Grain--Field experiments.; Princeton (Ky.); Soybean.; University of Kentucky.; Wheat.

00:08:31 - Personal experience of December 10th

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Obviously, all of that changed on--on December 10th.

Segment Synopsis: Lee describes his experience on the night of December tenth, and the following morning. He discusses the state of the damage on the farm, especially the damage to barns and the presence of exposed equipment. Lee describes the lack of electricity and cell phone service until Sunday.

Keywords: 2021 Kentucky tornadoes; Research labs; Tornado devastation; Tornadoes--Kentucky

Subjects: Dawson Springs (Ky.); Farms--Research.; Grain--Losses.; Natural disasters--United States.; Princeton (Ky.); Tornadoes.

00:18:52 - Farm site's initial response

Play segment

Partial Transcript: And, maybe, just talk a little about the initial response. What people were really doing there?

Segment Synopsis: Lee explains the efforts of the Princeton farm to react to the devastation of the tornado. Lee credits the day-to-day operations director Carrie Knott for her leadership and direction in the immediate aftermath the night of the tenth. He talks about the efforts to clear paths through the farm and redirect cattle back into their pens. Lee is proud of everyone helped and worked on what was necessary to better assess the situation.

Keywords: 2021 Kentucky tornadoes; Cattle; Disaster response; Princeton farm; Tornadoes--Kentucky

Subjects: Farms--Research.; Grain--Losses.; Natural disasters--United States.; Princeton (Ky.); Tornadoes.

00:21:29 - Lexington support

Play segment

Partial Transcript: And, you divide your time now, between--between both locations.

Segment Synopsis: Lee describes coordinating the relief efforts between Princeton and Lexington. He notes that the University of Kentucky was able to postpone meetings and get people to Princeton to see the damage themselves. Lee talks about setting up resources to ease communication, such as Zoom communications and Starlink, as well as the use of Footprint to set up electricity and mobile hotspots. Lee notes that planning the new lab set up has given them the opportunity to better and more efficiently design the lab and farm space.

Keywords: Footprint; Rebuilding efforts; Starlink; Tornadoes--Kentucky; Zoom

Subjects: Agriculture--Research--On-farm.; Agriculture--Research--United States.; Farms--Research.; Grain--Losses.; Lexington (Ky.); Natural disasters--United States.; Princeton (Ky.); Tornadoes.; University of Kentucky.

00:33:10 - Personal and professional stressors

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Um, maybe, like, one more question before we talk more about what's moving forward.

Segment Synopsis: Lee discusses the impact of the tornado devastation on people's professional and personal lives. He notes that seven families were displaced from their homes at the farm, and lab techs worried over whether they had a job to return to. Lee talks about the chaotic past few years including construction and COVID-19. Lee hopes that the farm and labs will be completely rebuilt and operational by the 100th anniversary of the farm.

Keywords: Coronavirus; Rebuilding efforts; Stressors; Tornado devastation; Tornadoes--Kentucky

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); Disaster relief.; Graduate students.; Grain--Losses.; Natural disasters--United States.; Princeton (Ky.); Tornadoes,

00:38:39 - Rebuilding plans

Play segment

Partial Transcript: You mentioned like a, or like a, Dean (???) mentioned, a rebuilding committee. How -- how do you think that will function?

Segment Synopsis: Lee discusses the current plans for rebuilding the farm and research space, including a spec shop. He also notes the efforts of local farmers in helping with the rebuilding efforts, bringing in farm equipment and workers. Lee reiterates the plans to build a newer, cheaper, and more efficient lab space.

Keywords: Local farmers; Rebuilding efforts; Research labs; Tornadoes--Kentucky; University of Kentucky Plant and Soil Sciences Department

Subjects: Disaster relief.; Farmers.; Grain--Field experiments.; Natural disasters--United States.; Princeton (Ky.); Tornadoes.

00:43:44 - Tornado's impact on local farms

Play segment

Partial Transcript: I guess, uh, so you, you know, went down here, you saw Princeton.

Segment Synopsis: Lee discusses the impact of the tornadoes on local farmers. He talks about how due to the rural and agricultural nature of Princeton, the loss of farms, barns, and grain is as significant to the community as people's homes. Lee notes that in Caldwell County the damage done will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. He talks about the length of devastation from the storm's path. Lee discusses weather's role as a variable in agriculture.

Keywords: Agricultural damage; Kentucky agriculture; Kentucky farms; Tornadoes--Kentucky

Subjects: Agriculture.; Caldwell County (Ky.); Corn.; Crop rotation.; Grain--Losses.; Natural disasters--United States.; Nitrogen fertilizers; Princeton (Ky.); Soybeans.; Tornadoes.; Weather.

00:55:40 - Farmers' grain storage capabilities

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Because I also wonder, in some other areas that have a lot of temporary ground-based storage, at--have elevators, things like that, anticipating that people might not have the on-farm storage, are we going to see, uh, elevators and other people trying to receive additional grain?

Segment Synopsis: Lee discusses the current crises dealing with grain storage, especially with regards to farmers' expectations for how much they will harvest and use. Lee says that most local farmers in Kentucky are set up to survive this year's harvest. He notes strategies that farmers have to help with corn storage needs.

Keywords: Grain storage; Kentucky farmers; Local farmers; Tornadoes--Kentucky.

Subjects: Corn.; Farmers.; Grain--Losses.; Natural disasters--United States.; Princeton (Ky.); Tornadoes.

00:58:22 - Interactions with commodity groups

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Let me--here, you are involved a lot, with commodity groups: corn growers, soybean board, um, so how are--how are they helping farmers and how are they helping with the rebuild?

Segment Synopsis: Lee discusses his conversations with local commodity groups, such as corn growers, soybean growers, and wheat growers. He notes how they have helped with funding the rebuilding effort, such as granting money to allow for building new graduate student housing.

Keywords: Commodity groups; Corn growers; Grad housing; Kentucky farmers; Local farmers; Small grain growers; Soybean growers; Tornadoes--Kentucky; Wheat farmers

Subjects: Corn.; Natural disasters--United States.; Soybeans.; Tornadoes--Kentucky; Tornadoes.; Wheat.

01:03:51 - Repairing and restoring damaged equipment

Play segment

Partial Transcript: From an equipment standpoint, especially with these more specialized, uh--(laughs)--harvesting and planting pieces, how is that--how is that approach moving forward?

Segment Synopsis: Lee discusses how his team has tried to restore and repair the specialized farm equipment. Special focus has been placed on an old combine harvester whose parts have stopped being sold, rendering it unrepairable without stripping parts from other vehicles. Lee also discusses a specialized research planter that is being assessed by the insurance companies to see if it could be restored.

Keywords: Agricultural insurance; Combine harvesters; Research planters; Restoration efforts; Tornadoes--Kentucky

Subjects: Combines (Agricultural machinery); Grain-handling machinery.; Natural disasters--United States.; Princeton (Ky.); Tornadoes.

01:05:55 - Impact on outreach activities

Play segment

Partial Transcript: And something we, we hadn't mentioned--we talked about the equipment, we talked about the land, the neighbors -- but something we haven't talked about is how is this going to affect our outreach?

Segment Synopsis: Lee discusses the importance of the community and research outreach that Princeton farm conducts, especially field training. Lee talks about the use of temporary tents to conduct those activities. Lee cites the importance of continuing to do these activities at Princeton rather than other sites. Lee ends the interview noting the support for local agriculture, and his desire to continue honoring the farm's goals for the region.

Keywords: Beef Bash; Community outreach; UK Research and Education Center

Subjects: Agriculture--Research--On-farm.; Agriculture--Study and teaching--Activity programs.; Outreach.; Princeton (Ky.); University of Kentucky.