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U.S. Sen. James Lankford stands with First Cowboy Darren Shrum and employees of the OSU student farm at the site.

Sen. Lankford visits OSU, tours agriculture and engineering facilities

Monday, April 29, 2024

Media Contact: Sydney Trainor | Communications and Media Relations Specialist | 405-744-9782 |

U.S. Sen. James Lankford toured facilities and met with leaders on the OSU-Stillwater campus Thursday to learn more about how the state’s modern land-grant university is improving lives through public impact research. 

Lankford, who has served in the U.S. Senate since 2015 and became the senior senator from Oklahoma in 2023, said it’s essential that institutions like OSU live out the modern land-grant mission and continue to drive research forward because it impacts everyone and essentially everything — from the clothes people wear to the food they eat. 

“Everything that we do in a land-grant university is different than many other universities because it's really focused on what are we doing together about the skills and the future, and the research that is going to feed the rest of the world and the United States,” Lankford said. “There's a reason we have an inexpensive food supply in the United States. and it's because of this kind of research, this kind of work.” 

OSU President Kayse Shrum, First Cowboy Darren Shrum and  Dr. Justin Quetone Moss, Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture head, showed Lankford around the OSU Student Farm — part of The Innovation Park — and shared details about the initiative’s expansive impact in its inaugural year. Combining all areas of OSU’s land-grant mission, the Student Farm offers teaching opportunities and research projects while also carrying out Extension’s mission of service. On just two acres of land, the farm grew more than 54,000 pounds of produce for Payne County residents. 

Moss said there are plans to expand the Student Farm by adding a facility that will allow produce to be cleaned and packed for distribution outside of Payne County through the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. But Moss said it’s already a one-of-a-kind project among land-grant universities.

“It's great to be able to see the work OSU is doing to help people in Oklahoma,” Lankford said. “It's a big difference between saying to somebody, ‘Here's a can of corn and here's something fresh.’ Most of our food banks are not able to provide a lot of fresh produce. So, to see that there's an opportunity here in this county, and hopefully multiple others — and quite frankly, just see the model that's happening here at OSU that's not happening in other places in the state or other land-grant universities — we can help solve some of the issues that we're facing in the country right now on food, through our land-grant universities all over the country. 

“I'm really proud of OSU. It’s not only trying to figure it out, but also figuring out and already intentionally thinking, ‘Here's how we could be the example.’” 

Across Highway 51, Lankford toured OSU’s  Agronomy Research Station with Dr. Brett Carver, Regents Professor and wheat genetics chair in the plant and soil sciences department, and Dr. Jayson Lusk, vice president and dean of OSU Agriculture. 

lankford with carver and lusk
From left: Dr. Jayson Lusk, Dr. Brett Carver and Sen. James Lankford

The facility is home to the university’s renowned  wheat improvement program. Carver said the interdisciplinary research conducted by his team, which is enhancing the genetic resources available in the wheat industry, all starts in this facility.  

Lankford also toured the  Ferguson Family Dairy Center, named after OSU alumni and New Frontiers Cornerstone Donors Larry and Kayleen Ferguson, to see the facility's high-tech equipment and learn about OSU’s dairy program. 

“We're really working to try to feed the world out here,” Lusk said. “And we're doing that in large part with support from the federal government. So, it was a really wonderful opportunity for Sen. Lankford to get to see how that money is being invested, and the results of that work and seeing the return on that investment that the government has made in us.” 

Students and faculty in the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology showed Lankford the EXCELSIOR lab, where students conduct drone research with significant national security implications. They shared an example of some of the research they’re conducting for the Department of Defense which aims to provide vehicles that can replicate threats for loiter munitions found in the field.  

The state of Oklahoma — through OSU’s Oklahoma Aerospace Institute for Research and Education — and several tribes are engaged in drone research to enhance national security or to benefit first responders and agriculture through air mobilization and a variety of other ways, Lankford said. 

matt Szabo
Matt Szabo talks with Sen. Lankford about OSU's drone projects.

“Oklahoma's building some synergy here to save the future of air mobilization,” Lankford said. “In the future, what we're going to do to protect the country from risk or to also do deliveries to our homes is happening here. … Between Fort Sill and the FAA in Oklahoma City, along with what's happening at OSU and tribal locations, it's pretty remarkable.” 

OSU leaders welcome opportunities to build relationships with the federal delegation to showcase OSU research and the university’s ongoing drive to cement itself as the nation’s premier land-grant university. 

"Sen. Lankford's visit to our innovation park highlights our collaborative efforts with the federal delegation of Oklahoma, providing an invaluable opportunity for our representatives to witness firsthand the impactful use of public funding," said Elizabeth Pollard, CEO of The Innovation Foundation at OSU. "We extend our heartfelt gratitude for his interest and engagement.

“Building these relationships would not be possible without Dr. Shrum and her steadfast leadership and dedication to advancing our land-grant mission, notably in bolstering our connections and impact within The Innovation Park. Additionally, the First Cowboy's unwavering commitment to the OSU Student Farm epitomizes our shared aspiration to foster a healthier future for all Oklahomans. Together, we're forging ahead in pioneering progress.”

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