By Faith Peppers
Georgia Extension Service
The $5,000 annual awards recognize UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences educators and researchers who excel in teaching, research, extension and public service extension programs. An award for international agriculture is given in even-numbered years.
The 2003 winners are Mark Compton, teaching; Casimir Akoh, research; Don Shurley, extension; and Reid Torrance, public service extension programs.
The CAES sponsors the annual lecture and awards in memory of D.W. Brooks, founder of Gold Kist, Inc., and Cotton States Mutual Insurance Companies. Brooks was an advisor on agriculture and trade issues to seven U.S. presidents.
Dennis Avery, a senior fellow of the Hudson Institute, delivered the 2003 D.W. Brooks Lecture, "Has America Already Lost High-Yield Agriculture?" The lecture and awards presentations were in the Mahler Auditorium of the Georgia Center for Continuing Education.
Compton, a poultry science professor, was cited for his innovative approach to teaching. He's highly rated by students and considered a leader in interactive, multidimensional education.
His lab exercises are the central focus of his courses. They provide hands-on experiences that are intimately integrated with lecture material. Even his testing approach is unique. Virtually all of his exams include an oral question he evaluates one-on-one with each student.
Students consider his "Avian Anatomy and Physiology" course among the hardest at UGA. It's highly unusual for students to give good teaching evaluations to professors who teach tough courses. Yet they consistently name him as one of the best teachers, if not the best, they've ever had.
Akoh, a food scientist, has made significant contributions in basic and applied research in lipid modification. He has gained national and international recognition for his work on fat substitutes, structured lipids, flavor and fragrances.
Akoh discovered eight fat substitutes that compete with olestra as zero- or reduced-calorie fats. Several have been patented. His research resulted in more than 300 publications, and his work has received more than $2.7 million in research funding.
He edited the first authoritative book on food lipids for classroom use. Published in 1998 and as an updated second edition in 2002, it's used worldwide for lipid instruction.
Shurley, an agricultural economist, is widely recognized as one of the nation's leading cotton economists. Shurley's economic analysis provides crucial information to guide Georgia cotton farmers' decisions.
His work shows that farmers can improve their profits by $40 million annually with seed technology changes and by $88 million with more timely defoliation and harvest.
His educational programming led the state's cotton industry through a period of rapid acreage expansion and political and economic volatility. His educational efforts helped cotton farmers through three farm bills and changes in trade policy.
The expansion of cotton acreage in Georgia created the need for more ginning capacity. From 1993 to '96, Shurley completed feasibility studies for eight new cotton gins in Georgia, a $32 million investment.
Torrance has been an extension agent for 23 years, the last 19 in Tattnall County. He has been an integral part of Vidalia onion crop's production since 1984.
Farmers, agribusinesses and research groups from all over the world have sought his advice on growing, storing and marketing onions. In the past five years, Torrance has written or coauthored 77 publications, including 11 professional journal articles.
He helped bring mechanical harvesting to the Vidalia onion industry. He played a pivotal role in protecting the Vidalia onion name. And he helped establish the Vidalia Onion and Vegetable Research Center.
Torrance also he established a farmer cooperative, Farm Fresh Tattnall, to promote the county's pick-your-own and roadside fruit and vegetable markets. He conducts trials in forestry, peanuts, tobacco and many vegetables.
(Faith Peppers is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)