A friend to the farmer
Working as both a teacher at Dickinson State University and as the assistant director for the NDSU Dickinson Research Extension Center, Frank Kutka keeps busy.
Originally from Wisconsin, Kutka received his bachelors of science in biology from the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater in 1984, his masters of science in animal ecology from Iowa State University in 1988 and then went on to receive his Ph.D. in plant breeding from Cornell University in 2005.
"When I tell you that I like Dickinson I can tell you that there are good reasons to like it," Kutka said with a laugh. "I've been all over the place."
Since moving to Dickinson from New York with his wife Grace Tinderholt and son Vladimir in 1995, Kutka said he's enjoyed his time here.
Even from the time he was a small child, Kutka said being near farms and on farms has been something he looks forward to.
"When I was really small we lived in the city," Kutka said. "We had some relatives that lived on farms in western Wisconsin, and that was the big hit of the year if we actually went out to visit. After seeing one it always seemed to me to be the place to live, out in the country."
First beginning at the Dickinson Research Extension Center as a sustainable agriculture specialist, Kutka has since taken on a new role: A teacher.
Since last year Kutka has taken on a teaching role, acting as one of DSU's adjunct faculty and teaching classes.
"It seemed like an interesting possibility to use what I do everyday to work with the students here," Kutka said. "I enjoy hearing there stories and I really hope that sharing some of my experiences with them will help them as they go out into the world."
Although Kutka has added teaching to his gamut of activities, he said he still spends quite a bit of time at the Dickinson Research Extension Center.
"The extension center is my home everyday, except weekends," Kutka said. "I get to work with very talented interesting staff and I get to work with extension agents and specialists all across North and South Dakota, and even some in surrounding states. It's been really great."
All of agriculture is different, Kutka said.
"Every time I meet a farmer or rancher I'm learning new things. I look forward to meeting a lot more," Kutka said. "Much of what I assist with in talking about concepts and approaches that they would perhaps figure out how to adapt. I provide opportunities and we work from there."
A big part of his position at the DREC, Kutka said, is working with educators to help them find new things to work with farmers on.
Working with both farmers in the area and students in a variety of facets, his colleagues aren't surprised he was given the 2009 Friend of the Farmer award by the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society at their recent winter conference.
"It's not surprising to me that a group like Northern Plans Sustainable Agriculture would award Frank with something like friend of the farmers," said Chip Poland, chairman of the Department of Agriculture and Technical Studies at DSU. "It fits Frank quite well."
Poland said his attitude and how he relates to students makes him stand out.
"It illustrates how he works with students, but also how he works with producers," Poland said. "Frank is knowledgeable and expects a lot out of his students. They learn a lot."
Kutka said he was very surprised to receive the award.
"I was totally caught off-guard," Kutka said. "I'm deeply honored to have been considered at all, let alone actually winning the award."
Kutka said he doesn't plan on going anywhere else anytime soon, as his wife is involved in the nursing program at DSU and his son thoroughly enjoys Dickinson.
"Dickinson has really got a great balance of opportunities," Kutka said. "I think it's a very nice place to live, I can see a lot of opportunities for us to stay and I don't see any reason to even want to move. I like a lot of places around the country and world; I've seen many things, but I think Dickinson's a great spot to be."