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Agricultural hall of fame adds new faces

By Stephanie Schupska
University of Georgia

Two men who helped turn University of Georgia programs into powerhouses were inducted into the Georgia Agricultural Hall of Fame at the 52nd annual UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Alumni Association Awards Banquet Sept. 15 in Athens, Ga.

M.K. “Curly” Cook of Oglethorpe County, Ga., and Ray Jensen of Tifton, Ga., found their faces on the wall that holds portraits of such agricultural greats as D.W. Brooks, Abit Massey and Martha Berry.

Each of these men’s contributions is unique. Cook helped make UGA a leader in Extension animal education, while Jensen is a pioneer in turfgrass commercialization.

Cook was one of the most versatile Cooperative Extension livestock specialists in Georgia during his career. He was responsible for supervising the newly formed Georgia Beef Cattle Improvement Association. And under his leadership, the program grew into one of the largest and most effective BCIAs in the nation. He also helped organize the still-active National Beef Improvement Federation.

Later, as head of the UGA Extension animal science department, Cook’s crowning achievement was the Georgia National Fairground and Agricenter. In 1989, he became associate director of UGA Extension.

Since retiring, he has served as vice president and president of the Georgia Cattleman’s Association and president of the UGA Agricultural Alumni Association. In 2005, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue appointed him to the Georgia Agrirama Development Authority.

In 1950, Jensen was the first to commercially produce and harvest centipede grass seed. He was a key in helping transform the once unknown grass into one of the most popular lawn and landscaping grasses in the world.

Jensen developed large combines fitted with special heads and vacuums and pioneered the market for vegetatively propagated grasses. He also developed a transplanter that, modified and automated, is still used today.

To promote the improved Bermuda grasses developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and UGA for golf courses, Jensen formed Southern Turf Nurseries. His company was a key player in developing turf into a multibillion-dollar business.

Including Southern Turf Nurseries, Jensen is the founder, owner and operator of Tifton Seed Farms and Hall and Jensen Farms. He has served as a trustee for Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College for more than 30 years and was a founder of the Tift Regional Medical Foundation. He remains active in personally funding scholarships.

The Georgia Agricultural Hall of Fame, a program of the UGA CAES, was created in 1972 to recognize Georgians who made significant achievements in agriculture, agribusiness and service institutions. The program is funded through private contributions and administered by the CAES Alumni Association.

(Stephanie Schupska is a news editor with the University of Georgia Public Affairs Office.)

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