Kentucky State University’s Louie Rivers Jr. will receive the 2017 Excellence in Extension Award – a prestigious national recognition for extension workers with visionary leadership, a track record of excellence in programming and positive impacts on their community. The award, which has been presented since 1991, is given by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU).

Rivers has served KSU’s Cooperative Extension Program for more than 23 years. He has secured and managed more than $12 million in extramural grant funding to enhance the institution’s work with the small, limited-resource, minority, veteran and women farmers in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

In 1997, Rivers worked alongside Dr. Marion Simon to found the Third Thursday Thing workshop series that provides small farmers from across Kentucky with hands-on training and multidisciplinary research every month in areas of horticulture, organics, livestock, pasture, forestry, aquaculture, apiculture and cropping systems. The 20-year program is still thriving today. Rivers also co-created the Small, Limited Resource, and Minority Farmers Conference with Simon, which is held in November each year in Frankfort, Kentucky. Program participants learn about USDA resources and other farm service agency loans.

“The KSU Small Farm Conference is the largest annual gathering of African-American farmers in the state, and is designed to provide a mix of resources and networking opportunities for local farmers,” said Dr. Kirk Pomper, director of Land Grant Programs at Kentucky State. “Statistically we know that on average participants of the Small Farmers Program have shown an annual increase of $5,000 in income on their farms. It’s no wonder that Mr. Rivers is personally and professionally respected for his work in Kentucky amongst stakeholders and university educators alike.”

As the director of 1890 County Operations at the Cooperative Extension Program, Rivers has taken lead roles in many farmer organizations including the Partners for Family Farms, Community Farm Alliance, the Fairview Produce Auction, the Meade County Black Farmers Association, and the Farmers2City Connection. He has partnered as a project manager with the University of Kentucky on their Beginning Farmer Project, KY SARE Model State Program and approximately 90 grant projects. He works as a partner to the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group and leads the Kentucky farmer discussion, and the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, where he provides a bus tour and leads the Kentucky discussion. Rivers is also called upon regionally and nationally to present the 1890 viewpoint. He serves as Kentucky State University’s CARET and APLU representative.

“Each day I come to work, I think of what my father told me years ago about how the USDA programs changed his life and allowed him to provide a decent lifestyle for his family and to provide an education for his children,” said Rivers. “KSU’s Extension Program has helped small farmers by providing them with so much education that it’s hard to put a value on it. It opens so many doors that many farmers are not aware of and allows them to go places that they would not have an opportunity to go if they have not participated in our programs. There is something in Extension for everyone.”

Rivers, along with other award recipients, will be presented with their award at the APLU annual meeting in Washington, D.C. Nov. 12.

“We are very honored to have Louie Rivers Jr. recognized for his many years of dedication and service to KSU’s Cooperative Extension Program. We celebrate him on this major achievement,” said Dr. Johnnie Westbrook, associate extension administrator at Kentucky State.