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Distinguished Leaders Awarded Indiana's Highest Ag Honors
Indiana Ag Connection - 08/05/2022

Thursday at the Indiana State Fair, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch presented Dr. Karen Plaut, Dean of Agriculture at Purdue University, and Gary Truitt, Chairman of Hoosier Ag Today and the Indiana Farm Equipment & Technology Expo, with the state's highest agricultural honor, the AgriVision Award.

Now in its 16th year, the award is presented to individuals who have made significant contributions to the agriculture industry and their communities.

"The agriculture industry is constantly growing and advancing thanks to businesses and education systems run by outstanding Hoosiers such as Dr. Plaut and Gary Truitt," said Lt. Gov. Crouch. "They are taking technology and community involvement to the next level through their careers and many projects. These individuals are serving the State of Indiana to better the lives of future generations to come. These two agriculturalists and their families are well deserving of being awarded the state's highest agricultural honor."

Dr. Plaut came to Purdue in 2010 as Associate Dean and Director of Agricultural Research Programs and was promoted to Senior Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Affairs in 2013. In May 2018, she was named the Glenn W. Sample Dean of Agriculture. In this role, she leads a college of nearly 300 faculty, more than 3,500 undergraduate and graduate students, with 280 Extension educators across all 92 Indiana counties. The college is ranked #8 globally and #4 nationally among colleges of agriculture and forestry.

In 2013, Dr. Plaut took the lead in writing the proposal that led to more than $20 million in funding for the Purdue Moves Plant Sciences Initiative. Some of the many accomplishments of this initiative include establishing the Center for Plant Biology and the hiring ten new faculty members, creating Ag?Celerator, a $2 million plant sciences innovation fund within the Purdue Foundry that provides critical startup support that helps Purdue/Indiana as well as developing new industrial and stakeholder partnerships that resulted in major funding to build and equip the Indiana Corn and Soybean Innovation Center, the first field phenotyping facility in North America.

In 2021, she worked to secure more than $20 million in funding for Purdue Next Moves Plant Sciences 2.0 -- the only Purdue Moves initiative to receive additional funding from the Board of Trustees. This second round of funding will leverage and expand Purdue Agriculture's expertise in digital agriculture, phenotyping and agricultural economics to add value to plants and forest products by optimizing productivity, nutrition and sustainability traits and coupling these to consumer preferences. Recognizing that Purdue had the expertise in both forestry and data science, Dr. Plaut added a digital forestry component to this round of funding to better support Indiana's hardwood industry whose annual economic impact is $10 billion and set up Purdue -- and our state -- to be a leader in developing digital platforms to revolutionize forestry and support critical efforts to monitor and mitigate devastating forest fires and pest/disease outbreaks.

Under Dr. Plaut's leadership, Purdue's College of Agriculture is a strong partner in growing economic opportunities and innovation in Indiana agriculture. The college supports entrepreneurship opportunities among its faculty and students and this focus has resulted in 24 new startups from within the College over the last five years. One specific area of success is within the plant sciences, which now accounts for 20 percent of the new startups at Purdue University. Dr. Plaut sits on the Board of Directors of AgriNovus Indiana, the state's initiative to advance the agbiosciences sector. She works closely with the AgriNovus team to engage companies looking to locate or expand in Indiana to showcase how Purdue can collaborate with them in research, as well as provide a highly?trained workforce. Since 2018, these efforts have resulted in 2,175 new jobs and $848 million in new capital investment in the state from companies like Inari Agriculture, Inc., Elanco, and Solinftec.

With more than 622,000 Hoosiers -- including 130,000 4?H youth -- engaged through Purdue Extension programs in 2021, Dr. Plaut recognizes the important, yet evolving, role the college's outreach programs play in both rural and urban communities across the state.

Both professionally and personally, Dr. Plaut actively seeks to engage others to build a stronger sense of community and an environment where all can thrive. Dr. Karen Plaut is playing a pivotal role in preparing the next generation of Indiana agriculturists and in building Indiana's agricultural and agbioscience economy. She is advancing science to benefit people, animals and our environment while making a difference in the lives of others.

Gary Truitt arrived in Indiana in 1985 to begin the first of several ventures all designed to serve Indiana farmers and the agriculture community. The first project was to create the very first of its kind, live, daily farm radio network, serving only the Indiana audience. So was born the Indiana Agribusiness Radio Network, which was later renamed the AgriAmerica Network by new owners Emmis Communications. For his efforts in creating a radio network that touched all parts of Indiana, he was awarded the Farm Broadcaster of the Year from the National Association of Farm Broadcasting in 1988.

In 2006, with that network being sold a year prior by Emmis, and seeing Indiana again void of a state-based farm radio network, Gary founded his second network from the ground up, this time as the principal owner. Hoosier Ag Today is now the most listened to farm network in Indiana with over 70 affiliates statewide.

In 2018, he partnered with Farm World Newspaper to purchase the struggling Indiana/Illinois Farm and Outdoor Power Equipment Show, now named the Indiana Farm Equipment and Technology Expo. After many decades, and again to better serve Indiana farmers, the Expo was moved from its prior location to the new Grand Park Event Center in Westfield, Indiana. Exhibitors and visitors alike praised the move to the new, modern facility in December 2021. The future for this farm show, once on its last leg, looks very promising.

In 2019, Gary saw another opportunity for growth by purchasing the Michigan Agriculture Information Network. Now named Michigan Ag Today, this is another venture that is flourishing under the leadership of Gary Truitt.

Gary has cultivated lasting relationships over the years with national, state, and local farm leaders. He has traveled to 17 countries to bring the story of agriculture back to Hoosiers. His work ethic on the international trips has become legendary.

At present, he is the only two-time winner of the Farm Broadcaster of the Year award. Twenty-seven years after receiving it for the first time, he was honored again in 2015 with Hoosier Ag Today. Additionally in 2020, Gary joined the ranks of other legendary farm broadcasters by being inducted into the National Association of Farm Broadcasting Hall of Fame. This is the highest honor a farm broadcaster can receive within the industry.

Gary has been serving Indiana agriculture since 1985 bringing farmers and agribusinesses the news and information they need each day. This includes the markets, weather, and farm news that farmers rely on daily via their radio, website, the daily podcast offering, and daily newsletter. During this long career, Gary's devotion has been to his Indiana farmer listening audience and readers. It is his unique media skills and vision that created each of the entities that have endured in economic good times and bad.

"Both ventures run by Gary Truitt and Dr. Plaut are pillars within the Hoosier agriculture industry," said Bruce Kettler, director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture. "Their passion is seen well beyond their operations and does not go unnoticed in their community. It is an honor to be awarding these outstanding individuals and recognizing their services to the citizens of Indiana."


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