CALLOWAY COUNTY — Murray State University’s Hutson School of Agriculture has expanded its available farm laboratory area.

In the past few weeks, it completed the acquisition of 40 acres of land on what is known as the Cavitt Farm about three miles northwest of Murray. Hutson School Dean Dr. Tony Brannon said this is important because the land borders land that was donated by the Hutson family for whom the school is named, which now will enable research to be performed on an area that completes the whole block of land making it nearly a perfect square, which will be easier to use. 

“It’s a great opportunity for us to expand and complete the farm laboratory area we have there,” Brannon said Friday of the land that is actually in two plots. The larger of the two plots is just south of KY 80 between Hale and Graham roads and consists of 24 acres. Another 16 acres is now available for use north of the highway. 

“We’ve been working on this since last fall and much appreciation goes to the many people who helped us with this. We had to get surveys done on the land and follow state guidelines with multiple appraisals and we had a lot of people help us with going through the legal ramifications, plus the university itself showed its diligence in making sure everything was handled on its end.“

Brannon said the land will serve as an area where numerous research plots and trials can be performed to help add to the knowledge base to support regional agriculture and provide educational opportunities for students like what is already happening in the neighboring farm  that was donated several years ago by Cindy Hutson, the widow of longtime area farm implement dealer Dan Hutson. 

“This was kind of a bucket list thing of mine, to add to the Hutson Farm and complete that block of land,” Brannon said, remembering a discussion several years earlier with then-Murray State President Dr. Kern Alexander about Murray State’s amount of available farm land. “He called me to Oakhurst (the presidential home on the campus) and he said, ‘We need to get some more land for your program.’ I said, ‘I certainly agree with you.’ But he wanted me to go out and ask for donated farms and I told him I thought that would be very difficult to do to obtain just the right type and location of farms in our area.  

“Back then, all we had was the West Farm (which is home to the Cherry Expo Center, as well as numerous test fields and the Hutson School’s equine center) and the North Farm. Well, lo and behold, several years later, we’ve managed to come into some farms.”

These include the Pullen Farm between Sycamore Street and KY 94 West at the western edge of the Murray city limits, the Garrett Center now in the center of the Hutson and Cavitt plots, and Eagle’s Rest, a large property in Ballard County near LaCenter, in addition to several other farms through estate gifts.

Brannon also said he wanted to mention the contributions of Murray State agriculture alum Bob Hargrove. He said that while Hargrove was not directly involved in the negotiations Murray State had with members of the Cavitt family, he indeed paved the way to the key initial part of those talks and discussions.

“Well, Bob is good friends with the Cavitt family, having grown up with them and known them his whole life and, one day, Mr. Garry Cavitt came (to The Murray Bank, where Hargrove serves as President and CEO) and they got to talking about the farm. Well, Bob and I have always worked closely on strategic planning since he was formerly a member of a Board of Regents Task Force on Agricultural land and facilities, so after he had finished talking to them, he decided to give me a call. He said, ‘I think they’re ready,’” Brannon recalled. “He may not have been directly involved in this, but when he heard that, he knew that was important enough to let us know about it.”

Brannon also recognized the four Cavitt siblings, two of whom live locally, and expressed appreciation to them for being open to working on the deal to assist the Hutson School of Agriculture.  He said the Hutson School will seek to make sure the Cavitts’ contribution to its overall mission will be recognized in appropriate and approved ways. He said the property will be internally referred to as “Cavitt Farm” and will probably receive the same treatment as other properties the Hutson School has acquired over the years, including acknowledgment of the heritage of the farm with approved signage.  

“If you remember, a lot has happened the last four months or so,” Murray State President Dr. Bob Jackson said a few weeks ago during the most recent meeting of the campus’ Board of Regents. “This board approved the acquisition of that farm and, using private funds from the School of Agriculture, it is closed and it is now a part of the school. Dean Brannon has done a wonderful job, along with (Vice President of Finance and Administrative Services) Jackie Dudley. I also must recognize our legal counsel, Rob Miller. He did all of the legal work in regard to it.

“Former (Murray State) President Dr. Tim Miller and I, about 10 or 12 years ago, once the Hutson farm was gifted to us, reached out to (the Cavitt) family. There were siblings that owned this tract then, and it has now worked out. It’s an important addition.”

Jackson also emphasized the assistance of Kentucky Finance and Administration Cabinet Secretary Holly Johnson, whose approval of the acquisition was required. 

“Secretary Johnson had to approve this in the middle of this crisis, and she actually approved it in just a couple of days so that we could close that farm deal, and she did it remotely from home. So she deserves credit with this too,” Jackson said.