Like many states, Kentucky's horticulture industry is diverse and important to the agricultural economy (Woods, 2009a; Woods and Williamson, 2008). However, the agricultural infrastructure and traditions are dominated by other industry segments such as burley tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum), horses, and cattle. Forage and livestock interests are paramount in Kentucky with regard to state resource allocations.
The interests of Kentucky horticulture are represented by 13 industry and professional associations. Before 1991, each of these organizations approached state governmental agencies and universities representing a relatively small constituency. Stories of state legislators pitting one horticultural organization against the other were common.
It was determined that limiting factors in the growth of the industry were the lack of visibility and an underdeveloped statewide production and marketing infrastructure, including research and extension programs through the land grant universities. The University of Kentucky (UK) Department of Horticulture wanted an industry advisory group, but the industry coordination needs were even greater. It was anticipated that this situation could be improved by focusing the industry's diverse efforts through a single, more powerful voice such as had been observed for the Kentucky Cattlemen Association.
The industry looked to the UK College of Agriculture for production and marketing research and education and to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) for market development and market promotion. Although UK and KDA worked well together to benefit the industry, both lacked the resources to meet the expanding needs and opportunities.
Woods, T. 2008 Horticulture Powers L. & Hunter J. The Kentucky agricultural economic outlook for 2009 20 June 2010 <http://www.ca.uky.edu/cmspubsclass/files/swilliamson/group/AECoutlook2010.pdf>.
Woods, T. 2009a Horticulture situation and outlook 2009–10 Burdine K. & Williamson S. 2009–2010 Agricultural situation and outlook. ESM-35 20 June 2010 <http://www.ca.uky.edu/cmspubsclass/files/swilliamson/group/09esmPubFinal.pdf>.
Woods, T. 2009b Horticulture Burdine K. & Williamson S. The economic outlook for Kentucky in 2010 20 June 2010 <http://www.ca.uky.edu/cmspubsclass/files/jhunter/2009%20Outlook.pdf>.
Woods, T. & Williamson, S. 2008 Produce outlook: Planting & marketing for 2008–2009 Burdine K. & Williamson S. Agricultural situation and outlook, Fall 2008. ESM-34 20 June 2010 <http://www.ca.uky.edu/cmspubsclass/files/esm/esm_34.pdf>.