Ames AgResearch and Education Center to Welcome New Assistant Director

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Animal Scientist and Agronomist from Cornell to Join the UTIA Team

GRAND JUNCTION, Tenn. — The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture is pleased to announce that Jodi L. Letham is joining the Ames AgResearch and Education Center as Assistant Center Director effective July 6. An animal scientist and agronomist, Letham previously served as an Extension associate at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

Letham is the first woman to join the system of statewide AgResearch and Education centers as a member of its leadership team.

“Jodi will have responsibilities to both UT AgResearch and the Hobart Ames Foundation,” says Ames AgResearch and Education Center Director Rick Carlisle. The foundation owns and operates approximately 18,400 acres located in Fayette and Hardeman counties in West Tennessee. In accordance with the will of the late Julia C. Ames, the property is available to the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture for research and teaching purposes as well as provides perpetual support for the National Championship for field trialing bird dogs. 

Letham grew up on a family dairy farm in western Pennsylvania where she says she “developed a strong passion for agriculture and an eagerness to learn.” She began her academic career at Pennsylvania State University majoring in agricultural sciences and minoring in agronomy. While attending Penn State, she worked for the USDA Pasture Management and Environmental Research Laboratory where she assisted with forage quality research involving pastures utilized in rotational grazing for cattle. She earned a bachelor’s of science degree in December 2012.

She began her master’s degree online from Iowa State University while working as the Northeast Territory Sales Manager for Brandt Consolidated Inc. Her territories included New York, Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio and New Jersey. Throughout her tenure at Brandt, Jodi gained experience in fruit and vegetable crop production, plant nutrition, nutrient management, soil fertility, integrated pest management, consultation, data analysis interpretation and business development.

In 2017, Letham joined Cornell University as an Extension specialist for the Northwest New York Dairy Livestock and Field Crops Team, providing interdisciplinary knowledge and applied research on forage livestock systems, nutrient management, precision agriculture and soil health for a nine-county region. She also transferred and completed her master’s field research identifying whether sulfur was limiting soybean yield in New York and earned an M.S. in animal science from Cornell University.

“We are pleased to add Jodi to our UT AgResearch leadership team,” states Hongwei Xin, dean of UT AgResearch. “Her expertise in agronomy and animal science will further our goals of supporting statewide agricultural research, teaching and industry, especially in the areas of agronomy and animal science.” The Ames AgResearch and Education Center has a long and distinguished history of supporting beef cattle production, particularly Angus cattle, as well as involvement in forage research, including the effects of the fescue endophyte on cattle development.

Carlisle jokes that Letham does have a few knowledge gaps. “With Jodi’s experience in forage and pasture crops, row-crop agriculture and livestock—both cattle and horses—all she will need to learn about Ames is forestry and wildlife and field trialing bird dogs.” However, that should be no problem. Carlisle says she’s eager to learn and will have the support of the seasoned Ames team and statewide UTIA faculty. “Coming from the North, her biggest challenge may be understanding our southern slang that we call English!” he quips.

The new Assistant Director of the Ames AgResearch and Education Center, Jodi Letham, is an enthusiastic barrel racer who developed he passion for agriculture while growing up on a dairy farm. Photo of Letham competing on her quarter horse mare, Billie Jean,  by Sarah Brandt Photography, Sharpsville, Pennsylvania.

Letham is coming to Tennessee with her husband, Josh, and her “family” of four quarter horses, two dogs and two cats. An enthusiastic barrel racer, she plans to continue competing in the southern U.S. She and Josh both enjoy rodeo and outdoor activities like 4-wheeler riding, hunting, fishing, camping and trail riding with their horses.

“I am really looking forward to this opportunity,” says Letham.

Through its land-grant mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions.

Media Contact

R. J. Carlisle

Ames AgResearch and Education Center


Patricia McDaniels

UTIA Marketing and Communications