Compiled by Rae Wagoner
Kentucky Soybean Board
You can tell a lot about a man by the way he introduces himself. On the Legislative Research Commission (LRC) Web page, Ryan Quarles could identify himself first as a graduate of Harvard, as a Truman Scholar or as the holder of not one but three undergraduate degrees in addition to his two master’s degrees. All of those means of identification would be true, yet when Quarles turned in his biography, the first thing he listed, after his date of birth, was the title “farmer.”
Quarles, a three-term state lawmaker, was elected agriculture commissioner after a hard-fought race that gained momentum when the candidates squared off for the first time at the Commodity Conference last year. He was endorsed by then-Commissioner James Comer, who did not run for re-election to pursue the office of governor. Quarles defeated Jean-Marie Lawson Spann, a Democrat, in the general election.
Quarles ran on a five-point platform:
- Promote urban agriculture & locally-grown food
From the farm gate to our dinner plate, Kentucky agriculture is part of our daily lives. As commissioner, Quarles pledged to promote urban agriculture by supporting the local food movement and markets that are in every Kentucky city but start on a Kentucky farm.
- Expand agriculture education
Quarles said he plans to continue and enhance the “Ag in the Classroom” program, as well as launch new initiatives, to ensure Kentucky’s children know and understand their food may come from a grocery store or restaurant but has a story that begins with a farmer — one that might be just a few miles down the road.
- Work for Kentucky jobs & opportunities for agriculture
Kentucky is a national leader in agriculture. Quarles plans to lead a Department of Agriculture that will help farmers find existing and new markets for their crops, be responsive to changing demands and attract processors to develop value-added products and create real, good-paying agribusiness jobs.
- Continue open & honest government in the agriculture department
The Department of Agriculture has become one of the most transparent and efficient departments in Frankfort by doing more with less and all expenses are available online. Quarles said he is committed to continuing to make the department an example for other branches of state government.
- Fight government overreach
Quarles vowed to push back against government over-reach and keep federal bureaucrats off Kentucky farms.
Quarles’ history of service includes representing Kentucky House District 62 since his election in 2010. He has served on the Agriculture Committee and the Agriculture and Small Business Committee since his election. In addition to his service to agriculture in general, he also served on the Interim Horse Farming Committee, and the Banking and Insurance Committee.
In just four years, Quarles completed three undergraduate majors and two graduate degrees at the University of Kentucky. He graduated in 2006 with majors in political science, agricultural economics and public service and leadership, and two master’s degrees in agricultural economics and diplomacy and international commerce.
In 2008, Harvard University awarded Quarles a full scholarship on the Zuckerman Fellowship, which enabled him to continue his studies at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the Kennedy School of Government and Harvard Law School. In 2009, he graduated from Harvard with a master’s degree in higher education before moving back to Kentucky to finish his last year of law school.
Those are some pretty impressive credentials, but many believe it was Quarles’ roots and farm upbringing that got him elected. He grew up on his family’s farm in Scott County, where he still helps out today. According to his campaign website, he began growing his own crops in high school as a means to pay for college, lending credit to his campaign motto: “Field ready, farm tested.”
Follow the ag commissioner online
Facebook: Ryan Quarles