TFISE was first established as the Center for the Environment in the year 2000. It was founded on a generous gift by Tracy Farmer, a long time Lexington area entrepreneur and horseman, and matched by Kentucky’s Research Challenge Trust Fund. Mr. Farmer noted the interrelated nature of a healthy environment, a vital economy, thriving communities and individual wellbeing. His vision was to create a center at the University of Kentucky, focused on equipping our current generation of Kentuckians to thrive by building the research, teaching, and outreach capacity to manage our shared environment for future generations.
In 2009, under the leadership of Dr. Paul Bertsch, the Center was re-named the Tracy Farmer Institute for Sustainability and the Environment and made a University-wide Center under the Vice President for Research. This move allowed the newly minted TFISE to broaden its sustainability scope, facilitate cross-college collaborations, and create a campus-level entity for coordinating research, teaching, and outreach efforts focused on sustainability and the environment. As TFISE Director from 2009 -2013, Dr. Bertsch endeavored to establish research programs in sustainable biofuels and in the creation of a critical zone observatory, in addition to outreach and educational efforts.
In 2013, under Dr. Rebecca McCulley’s leadership, we focused our mission on energizing our campus sustainability networks to elevate the climate of sustainability on the UK campus. Through re-energizing faculty "Working Groups", developing novel internal grant-making programs, being an active and engaged part of sustainability-related conversations all over campus, the TFISE took on an increased relevance and became an indispensable feature in sustainability-related work throughout the research, instruction, and outreach missions of our campus.
Starting in 2018, TFISE began its partnership with the Kentucky Water Resources Research Institute, led by Dr. Lindell Ormsbee. A powerful advocate who had a role in the original Farmer Center leadership, Dr. Ormsbee’s envisions a future in which the TFISE and KWRRI teams can leverage strengths and share existing resources in order to make greater progress towards each institute’s independent mission.