Cross Reflects on Becoming Chancellor of UT Agriculture



Tim Cross, Chancellor of the UT Institute of Agriculture

Tim Cross, Chancellor for the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture, at his welcome reception on Jan. 24, 2017. He received his Chancellor's Medallion that morning from UT President Joe DiPietro. Photo by Lauren Vath, courtesy UTIA. Download image.​


In January a well-known leader across Tennessee began work as chancellor of the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture. Tim Cross is only the third individual to hold the position of chancellor, yet his experience with the statewide organization spans 23 years. This includes his most recent appointments as interim chancellor and dean of UT Extension, all the way back to his first position with UT as an Extension specialist in agricultural economics.

These roles have given Cross direct understanding of the lives and needs of Tennesseans, whether in rural areas, suburbs, or inner cities, and he’s seen firsthand how the Institute, through its teaching, research, and Extension outreach, delivers real-life solutions to advance citizens’ lives.

“I’m honored and humbled, with capital H’s most definitely in both cases, to serve as chancellor,” Cross says. “It’s been such an opportunity to work with the Institute of Agriculture for the past 22-plus years and now to have the ability to work with our leadership team, our faculty, our staff and our agents, both on campus and across the entire state. During my period as interim chancellor, I witnessed the positive impacts our Institute has all across the state with Tennesseans, their communities and our state as a whole.”

Cross’ experience in agriculture began early. As a child living in the heart of New York’s dairy region, in a home surrounded by a dairy farm, he enjoyed riding with the farm crew as they plowed the cropland, planted corn, and spread manure. His interest in animal agriculture led him to study agricultural economics at two land-grant universities, Oklahoma State University and Oregon State University, where he began his career as an Extension specialist and teacher. In Knoxville, his own family’s ties to agriculture include wife, Denise, who grew up in 4-H raising sheep, and the couple’s four children growing up as active members of UT Extension’s 4-H program from fourth through twelfth grades, showing sheep and horses.

Throughout his career with the Institute, including service as interim chancellor following the retirement of widely respected Chancellor Larry Arrington, Cross has forged strong relationships with individuals and organizations across Tennessee. He also has gained insight into current and future issues and opportunities the state faces as an active partner on the Governor’s Rural Challenge and “Drive to 55” initiatives, as well as service on the Governor’s Rural Task Force.

From those perspectives, Cross says the Institute must serve a diverse state, with programs and resources tailored to all residents and based on local needs. Considering one of the Institute’s central focuses, Cross says he sees both needs and great opportunities ahead for Tennessee’s agricultural industry.

“Prices for many agricultural commodities and goods are much lower than they’ve been,” says Cross. “Producers must do everything they can to remain profitable, from working to lower their costs of production to increasing their revenues through improved marketing or to diversifying their farming operations. Our rural communities and the families in these communities are also affected by the farm economy, and we are committed to helping these families to manage their financial resources wisely, eat healthy and nutritious meals, and raise their children to be productive, caring citizens. These are critical challenges for the Institute’s people and programs to serve.”

Yet Cross believes it is also a very positive time for the state’s agricultural community.  “Consumers are very attuned to where their food comes from and how it was produced. For farmers and producers, this means potential to add value to their crops or livestock, through marketing their farm and products in new ways, by adding agritourism or serving as an educational site for the public, among other opportunities for growth. Many Tennesseans are also rediscovering the rich and abundant natural resources our state is blessed with, and they’re spending time enjoying our forests, lakes and rivers, and mountains. These new endeavors will involve a whole spectrum of the Institute’s faculty and staff, whether it’s related to health, economics, or the environment.”

In these ways, the four units of the Institute of Agriculture are tightly meshed, uniting the teaching components of the UT College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and the UT College of Veterinary Medicine, with the scientific mission of UT AgResearch and mission of outreach of UT Extension.

“All of our Institute faculty and staff, with their diverse areas of expertise, are dedicated to serving Tennesseans and people beyond our border,’ Cross says. “I’ve seen this commitment in how our people collaborate on issues, and I see those collaborations strengthening as we move ahead. We discover and deliver real-life solutions to today’s most pressing social issues, and we do it through our most valuable resource — our people.”

Through its mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. ag.tennessee.edu.

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Dr. Cross will be the guest of honor at a welcome reception at
the PickTN Conference, February 16, 2017, at 4:30 p.m. CST in Franklin, Tennessee.

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Contact:  Lisa Stearns or Margot Emery, UTIA Marketing and Communications, 865-974-7141

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