Education Continues at the Loretto Motherhouse Farm!
By Sharon Kassing
Take a minute and conjure up a picture of that teacher who “captured” you: the one who with his/her enthusiasm and curiosity turned you on to an insight or a piece of knowledge which you hadn’t known before. For me, it was an art teacher in grade school, a biology teacher in high school and, of course, Mary Roger Brennan in college. I can track their influences in my professional and personal life to this very day.
We all lament the passing of those times from our personal and communal experience, right? Well, think again! Right now, there is education of the highest quality going on at Loretto Motherhouse in the “classroom” of Cody Rakes, director of farm and land management. With a degree in agricultural education, Cody moves symbiotically between farming and teaching. His venue might be a hay wagon, the cab of the tractor, or, as he calls it, his “hub” in the barn. His students include preschoolers, high schoolers, retreatants, young and fellow farmers, members of the staff and Community or anyone who just happens into the barn when he is there.
From the beginning, networking has been Cody’s strong suit. Building relationships with the Marion County Cattlemen’s Association, the Young Farmers, the local farm bureau and the extension agency, and maintaining strong ties with colleagues and the University of Kentucky have put him in a position to provide reciprocal services and venues for in-service field days. In addition, some of those same contacts afford firsthand knowledge of available funding from state and federal agencies for otherwise costly infrastructure improvements. To date, Cody has sought and received in excess of $75,000 for improvements to the barn, pastures, woodlands and fencing on the Motherhouse farm, $40,000 of which was from a grant through the Kentucky Beef Network.
Because he was involved in research studies while a student at University of Kentucky and because he “loves spreadsheets,” every aspect of Cody’s farm practices is data-driven. Every heifer, cow, calf and steer has its page in Cody’s ledger where he records everything from birth date and weight to price/pound when sold. At any given time, he can determine just how much weight an animal gains per day on its current diet and adjust that according to need. In the fields, he monitors three or four varieties of soybeans for best yield and measures this summer’s corn yield against last winter’s cover crop in each respective field.
Right now, Cody spends about one third of his time on education, having hosted approximately 1,150 folks since March. While he has the occasional help of groundsman Joe Graves and a seasonal helper, a young farmer-to-be from Marion County High School, being available for his educational interactions takes time away from his other work.
For now, he counts on volunteers or an occasional retreatant to provide the labor for some of those hard-to-get-done tasks, like gathering old, tangled fence wire or getting rid of invasive plants. In addition to having these intermittent helpers, Cody has the strong and ever-present support of his wife, Angela, and his personal PR director, border collie Rascal (whose Facebook page, by the way, has in excess of 4,000 interested fans).
Quality Loretto education continues!