Extension TodayNews from and about the 1890 Land-Grant Extension System
Message from the Chair
Vonda Richardson Extension Administrator, Florida A&M University
February is Black History Month, a celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing our role in U.S. history. The 1890 Land-Grant Extension System has also played a tremendous role in Black history for communities across the nation.
This month’s issue highlights an individual or fundamental Extension program that empowers the community and makes a significant difference to not only Black communities, but also to the nation. Extension professionals are also unsung heroes, and AEA celebrates their innovation and commitment.
We appreciate you taking the time to read about the talented expertise in 1890 Cooperative Extension and the difference we are making. Continue to stay safe and protect each other.
Food relief for residents in North Alabama
By Wendi Williams
People across the nation have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many individuals are unemployed, thus limiting their ability to buy adequate food. Some people also find themselves standing in food distribution lines for the first time. To address food insecurity issues in North Alabama, staff and volunteers from several organizations stepped up to assist individuals and families.
These organizations included two Alabama A&M University (AAMU) entities, its Basic Needs Coalition and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, in partnership with The Legacy Center Inc. The Legacy Center is a distributor for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farmers to Families Food Box Program that provides produce, dairy and meat to citizens in need. From May to December 2020, the team, under the leadership of AAMU Extension’s Health and Nutrition Specialist Andrea Morris and Chanda Crutcher, chief visionary officer of The Legacy Center, delivered 46,900 pounds of food (2,120 boxes), reaching 518 households and 1,263 individuals.
Alabama Extension at AAMU still provides forklift services to this initiative and is looking for new ways to address food insecurity issues in Alabama.
The People’s Pantry: A mobile farmers market
By Renita Lacy, Staff Writer
In rural and urban communities in southwest Mississippi, unemployment rates are at an all time high, contributing to community food deserts and food insecurity for thousands of people.
As a means to rectify the issue, the Alcorn State University Extension Program’s 4-H Healthy Living Youth Ambassadors partnered with local schools, churches, farmers and community gardens to address food insecurity in Hinds, Madison, Rankin, Claiborne, Jefferson and Warren counties. Called the People’s Pantry Project, these individuals used the Cotton Ball Express Mobile Farmers Market to transport produce from local farms, community gardens and community pantries to provide individuals and families access to free fresh fruits and vegetables.
Since its initiation, the People’s Pantry Project has continued to partner with communities, farmers and faith-based organizations to distribute food to more than 10,500 individuals and families, resulting in a retail value of $110,000.
Fresh, locally produced protein provided to immigrant, African markets in research trial
Have fish; will travel! Two large tubs filled with tilapia raised within the Central State University Extension (CSUE) Aquaponics Demonstration Facility were provided to the International and African Market in Dayton by CSUE Associate Director Dr. Siddhartha Dasgupta to see if the community had a need for fresh fish to sell to its neighborhood customers.
The goal is creating a potential market outlet for aquaponics producers and developing a relationship with immigrant neighborhood small markets who may have a need for fresh, locally produced protein. Other markets are currently being visited to research the need for specialty produce and food desired by immigrant residents. In the future, CSUE will evaluate raising unique produce desired by immigrant residents, such as peppers, tomatoes, herbs, pumpkin leaves, lenga lenga and more.
The aquaponics research project is a joint effort between Central State University (lead) and The Ohio State University through funding from a U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Capacity Building Grant. The project was a collaboration between CSU research and CSU Extension, as well as OSU Extension at Piketon. For more information about the immigrant neighborhood produce program, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. For details about its aquaponics program, contact Dr. Cindy Folck at afolck@CentralState.edu.
Beverly C. Banks: A story of legacy, love and loyalty
During Black History Month, Delaware State University (DSU) Cooperative Extension honors Beverly C. Banks with this story about her tireless commitment to the 4-H and Youth Development Program and to the alma mater she serves.
During her youthful days in Bridgeville, Delaware, Banks recalls watching her grandmother, the late Margaret S. Harris, take great care with the children who would fill her home. The youth members of the Bridgeville Pioneers 4-H Club fondly appreciated Harris’ leadership and would anxiously await her next 4-H lesson. Harris offered lessons on sewing, cooking, interpersonal communication and personal development. Unbeknownst to her at the time, she was setting the stage for her granddaughter’s future career. In 2019, Harris was recognized and received a posthumous award for creating the Bridgeville Pioneers 4-H Club; Banks’ mother, Agusta Carr-Ross, accepted the award on behalf of her mother.
DSU represents an educational legacy for Banks and her family. While DSU’s name has changed since its inception in 1891, the mission remains the same: “Enter to learn, go forth to serve.” Banks’ mother attended the institution in the 1940s when it was called the State College for Colored Students — the only avenue Black people had in Delaware for higher education.
Family and community preservation: African American History Pop-Up Museum
The city of Apalachicola, Florida, is typically recognized for one of two characteristics - a source for oysters, fresh shrimp and blue crab or as the symbol of “Old Florida” heritage tourism. While these are the two more publicized story lines, additional realities exist. The call for revitalization and preservation enabled the Florida A&M University Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) program to reshape and focus programming that speaks to family and community concerns.
In response, an architecture professor, landscape architect, architect, African American history professor, planner, documentary filmmaker, community organizers, graduate architecture and history students, and residents addressed the role of preservation through a study of Apalachicola’s African American community called “The Hill.”
Community engagement works best when the community is engaged in a sustained cumulative process that enables trust to build over time. The Hill neighborhood, with an existing rich history and culture, community-based arts have the potential to transform the community in ways that traditional design and planning strategies have not been able to.
To this day, the work with members of the Hill neighborhood continues and so far, has consisted of an African American Pop-Up Museum that was utilized to showcase the interviews that had been conducted over a two-year period, along with pictures showing what family life looked like, as well as what community (church, educational and economic) life had been. This process served as a mechanism for revitalizing the community.
Leaving a lasting impression
Dedicated to serving his community and the state of Georgia, the late John Demons Jr. was the first leader of Fort Valley State University’s Cooperative Extension Program.
The former Extension administrator began a career with the University of Georgia (UGA) in 1951. He served in various roles, including county agent and assistant director of the 1890 programs. He became jointly staffed between the then Fort Valley State College and UGA in 1972, serving as assistant director and coordinator for FVSU’s Cooperative Extension Program. In 1978, Demons was appointed Extension administrator.
Since then, the program has flourished, providing free educational outreach programs in the areas of agriculture, family life, community and economic development and youth improvement. Extension continues to offer events, services and outreach to provide knowledge for inspiring lives and empower communities.
Demons retired in 1981 and received the honor of faculty emeritus of FVSU and the Cooperative Extension Program. His leadership also extended beyond FVSU’s campus as the director of Extension services for the state of Georgia. In addition to his state role, Demons served on the local level as the Peach County Retired Teachers Association’s president twice, regional director and state president from 1998-99. He spearheaded the renaming of the organization to the Georgia Retired Educators Association. He also became a member of the Development Authority of Peach County, which named the John A. Demons Industrial Park in his honor in 2018. His hard work and vision for Cooperative Extension at FVSU is cherished today.
Collaborating with community partners and faith-based organizations to provide healthy food
Availability of fresh food options, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, has become a concerning issue among many communities and churches. Kentucky State University (KYSU) is at the forefront of this issue, working with community organizations and churches and teaching “How to Grow a Garden” in small spaces so that during the warm seasons, Kentuckians can increase their healthy food options.
In Lexington, Kentucky, a faith-based partner of KYSU Cooperative Extension, First Baptist Bracktown Church, works with Dr. Marcus Bernard, KYSU associate professor of agricultural economics and rural sociology, to teach youth in its Black Male Working Academy how to grow fresh vegetables, then provides its membership and community with the harvest. The gardening program exposes many youth to production agriculture and serves as a pipeline to encourage students to seek out majors in agricultural careers.
The partnership teaches church members how to grow fruits and vegetables in a variety of growing systems that include in-ground, raised beds and containers.
Making a real difference in Oklahoma historically black towns: Impact of market gardening school
Imagine being an African American farmer in rural Oklahoma who must survive through whatever means necessary. Further, imagine a time when a production loan required putting every possession on the line to keep your family housed and fed. This is the true backdrop story that existing traditionally underserved market gardeners are exposed to as they participate in Market Gardening School, hosted by Langston University Cooperative Extension Program (LU-CEOP) in association with Oklahoma State University, Noble Research Institute and the Rev. Earrak and Arnetta Cotton of Kingdom Community Development Services.
The recent eight-month program held in Wagoner, Oklahoma, scheduled from March-October 2020, was called Agriculture in Action “Farm Training Project.” It was developed to educate and equip producers with the management and production skills necessary to generate garden fresh and healthier food. Micah Anderson, an Oklahoma native and LU-CEOP horticulture educator, weaves his family farming history into the gardening sessions as he instructs new growers to not only understand the key principles of gardening, but also to be able to recognize pitfalls and other long-standing challenges to avoid.
Through the Market Gardening School and other similar activities, LU-CEOP is meeting an expressed need from stakeholders for unique programming that offers education in areas of food security engagements, horticulture, animal production, business principles and marketing, along with the use of innovative practices such as plasticulture and integrated pest management. Cheryle Leeter, a retired military nurse and resident of Wauleeka, Oklahoma, participated in the program. “The class gave me the focus and knowledge I needed on how to grow, produce, cook and market my products,” said Leeter.
Lincoln University Cooperative Extension Paula J. Carter Center on Minority Health and Aging
The Lincoln University Cooperative Extension (LUCE) Paula J. Carter Center on Minority Health and Aging (PJCCMHA) has served Missouri seniors for more than 20 years. The center was founded in 1997 by Dr. Dolores Penn to empower and improve the quality of life for Missouri’s aging, underserved and minority senior citizens.
The PJCCMHA maintains close relationships with LUCE satellite offices, and this allows it to access minority communities in the city of St. Louis, St. Louis County and Kansas City, as well as in the cities of Charleston, Caruthersville and Sikeston in southeast Missouri. Offerings through the center include a Medicare Prescription Drug Enrollment program, the Missouri Institute on Minority Aging, lunch and learn sessions and the Senior Lay Leaders Program. A Healthy Aging newsletter is produced and disseminated to seniors biannually. Seniors participating in these and other programs have demonstrated increased health literacy.
The center works in partnership with the Office of Minority Health, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. The Office of Minority Health has been a stalwart supporter of the center with funding, programmatic, human and educational resources.
Traveling by horse over dirt roads, N.C. A&T’s first Black Extension agents made a difference
Cooperative Extension at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University has a long history of graduating and employing some of the country’s most talented and influential African Americans. Black History Month 2021 provides an opportunity to look back on some of those trailblazing individuals.
John W. Mitchell was born in 1885 and graduated with a degree in agriculture from the Agricultural and Mechanical College for The Colored Race (now N.C. A&T) in 1909. In 1917, he became an Extension agent for Bladen, Columbus and Pasquotank counties, dedicated to improving living conditions for farm families by teaching agricultural best practices. The work was challenging back then; he commuted between counties on dirt roads by horse or bicycle, sometimes spending the night with farm families.
By 1924, Mitchell was directing Extension activities for 15 counties. He built one of the largest Negro 4-H Clubs in the nation and became the state agent in charge of Extension work for African Americans in North Carolina in 1940. Mitchell was well known for leading state and national agricultural conferences, for his financial and innovative leadership in the lives of the state’s African American farmers, and for academic and community efforts between the races while serving on the North Carolina Commission on Interracial Cooperation.
New Mount Rose Missionary Baptist Church makes history with Buffalo Soldiers 4-H Club
Pastor K.P. Tatum Sr. of Fort Worth, Texas, has a vision of not just helping his own church, but the entire Morningside community of Fort Worth and beyond. The area of Fort Worth that the church resides has the lowest life expectancy in the entire state of Texas, according to researchers. The zip code of 76104 is also one of the largest food deserts in the area. Tatum of New Mount Rose Missionary Baptist Church has begun working with many organizations to change the trajectory of his community and create a positive lasting change to everyone.
One of the partners of the church is the Prairie View A&M University Cooperative Extension program in Tarrant County. The partnership was created to start the first 4-H club in the zip code and create educational programs in nutrition, STEM and urban sustainable gardening for their community. The club is named Buffalo Soldiers 4-H to honor the legacy of the Buffalo soldiers.
According to the Texas State Historical Association, Buffalo soldiers was the name given by the Plains Indians to the four regiments of African Americans, and more particularly to the two cavalry regiments, who served on the frontier in the post-Civil War army. They state, “From 1866 to the early 1890s the buffalo soldiers served at a variety of posts in Texas, the Southwest and the Great Plains. They overcame prejudice from within the army and from the frontier communities they were stationed in, to compile an outstanding service record.” They are proud to be considered the first ever in the United States to name their club after the legendary soldiers.
Washington commits more than 40 years of Extension career to helping others
During a time when the country celebrates the progress and achievements of notable African Americans for their contributions to society, South Carolina State 1890 Research & Extension recognizes one of its most dedicated change agents who has committed his career to marginalized and underserved communities in South Carolina. Ishmel Washington, regional director for the Low Country region, has dedicated more than 40 years to elevating the lives of citizens from Hampton County and the surrounding region.
"This has never been a job," said Washington. "With 1890, I am able to achieve what I've always wanted to do and that's help others."
Known for his endless support to residents in Hampton County, helping others has been Washington's mission since he was an adolescent. Growing up in a rural community in the 1960s during a time when African Americans struggled for justice and equality motivated him to become a community leader. After earning his biology degree from Claflin University, Washington began his career as a biology teacher, eventually becoming a principal in the public school system during the Civil Rights Movement when schools first became integrated. After several years, Washington transitioned to working with the S.C. Department of Social Services because he wanted to learn more about his community and how he could make a difference, he said.
Washington took the knowledge he gained as an educator and social worker to the S.C. State 1890 Program, serving as an Extension agent. For nearly five decades, he has contributed much of his time in the areas of youth development, sustainable agriculture and small farm initiatives serving Hampton, Beaufort, Colleton, Allendale and Jasper counties.
Owusu Bandele uses the Black Quiz Bowl to teach youth the importance of Black History
For 26 years, Southern University’s Black History Quiz Bowl has been held on campus as an educational tool used to stimulate the university’s students. The competition covers a variety of topics, including current events, politics, history, sports and entertainment.
The quiz bowl’s organizer, Dr. Owusu Bandele, began the event in 1994 after several faculty and staff decided to have a Black History program within the University’s College of Agricultural, Family and Consumer Sciences (CAFCS). Bandele decided to host a discussion on black female/male relationships. Following the success of the event, his research associate at the time, Marion Jarvis, suggested that he host a quiz bowl, and thus the CAFCS Black History Quiz Bowl was born. Bandele said it became his passion to educate youth about Black history after graduating from Towson State University in 1963.
“When I began teaching middle, and later high school in Baltimore City, I always incorporated our history in my teaching. Likewise, in teaching agricultural courses at Southern University, I always included the rich history and contributions that Africans and African Americans have made to the agricultural sciences,” Bandele said.
In 2016, Bandele, with the help of Erica Williams Mitchell, a research associate at the Southern University Ag Center, conducted two elementary Black History Quiz Bowls at Brownsfield and Audubon Elementary Schools. Bandele also hosted a science quiz bowl with special emphasis on the scientific achievements of African and African Americans at Audubon Elementary that same year. The Southern University Ag Center has continued to conduct Black History Quiz Bowls at the school each year.
Professor seeks environmental justice in Tennessee, diversity and inclusion in Extension
By Joan Kite
Approached by the nonprofit Urban Green Lab, Dr. Sky Georges is working on the Nashville Environmental Justice Initiative and has taken the lead on research that will assess the public’s knowledge of environmental racism in Tennessee and their ability to effectively respond to injustices.
Still in its early stages, Georges said he has signed up graduate students Anthony Bowden, who focuses on agribusiness, and Devin Ross, is working on his master’s degree in environmental science, to work with him. They are also seeking grants to help fund the project.
“Like in other cities, poor and communities of color in Nashville bear the brunt of environmental degradation,” Georges said. “We are looking at environmental racism and justice from multiple angles. These things do not happen in a vacuum.”
Georges said he hopes his research will provide solid recommendations to community leaders and will affect real change in Nashville and Tennessee. In a second program titled “Coming Together for Racial Understanding,” Georges is working to open conversation with Extension personnel in heightening awareness about diversity and inclusion with Extension programs. He currently has staff participating in a book club, where they are reading books such as “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent,” by Isabel Wilkerson, and “How to be an Anti-Racist,” by Ibram X. Kendi.
“One of the things that has come out of this as we have identified some issues with the wording on our website,” Georges said. Those issues have since been corrected.
Historic Macon County Farmers Market impacts community
By Jacquelyn Carlisle
Black History Month is a time to reflect on positive achievements and accomplishments in Black communities. The Macon County Farmers Market (the Market) was originally established through a historic partnership between Tuskegee University, Macon County Commission, First Tuskegee Bank and the Macon County Farmers Organization. The Market has programs that have affected the Macon County community over the past three decades. Walter Baldwin, a retired Tuskegee University Cooperative Extension Program (TUCEP) agricultural and natural resource agent of 40 years, manages the Market.
“We started with the farmers selling produce in the town square,” recalls Baldwin, adding when the Market was established, it quickly became a popular gathering place and has remained so ever since.
The Market influences the community socially and educationally by providing a place for the community to congregate, catch up on what is happening in the community, and gain information relevant to their community. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Market became a location for the Macon County Commission to distribute free masks and sign up citizens to be tested for the virus.
The Market was used once again to affect education by providing a place for Macon County citizens to fill out the 2020 Census. In 2015, a team of students, staff and faculty established the Tuskegee University Cooperative Extension Community Teaching Garden (CTG) on the same property in an adjacent lot. Each year’s harvest leads to a Feastival, a community engagement activity pioneered by students, interns and young staff surrounding healthy preparations of the produce from the garden and local farms.
Tuskegee Airman Thomas F. Vaughns inducted into Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame
Thomas F. Vaughns, former horticulture specialist for the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) and member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen during World War II, was recently inducted into the Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame.
During the war, Vaughns, a resident of Marianna, Arkansas, worked as a mechanic on B-25 bombers and was later promoted to the training command. In 1950, he earned a degree in agriculture from Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical & Normal (AM&N) College (now UAPB). After graduation, he worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs and was responsible for teaching veterans farming techniques.
Two years later, Vaughns was hired as a county Extension agent – a job role he had been dreaming about for 25 years because of its involvement with the 4-H program. Later, in his role as horticulture specialist for UAPB, he supervised Extension agents in 13 counties. Throughout his career and retirement, Vaughns has worked to expand opportunities for youth in agriculture. He encourages young people to pick a college major or career path that is both practical and enjoyable.
“Whatever your goal is, you have to stick to it,” he said. “It took me 25 years to become a county Extension agent, but that came true because I was determined.”
UMES Extension educator hailed a champion of the community
Making an impact in the community through his professional and personal life is what drives McCoy Curtis Jr., especially in these challenging times, and it has not gone unnoticed.
For his humanitarian services to the community, Curtis was honored last month on Martin Luther King Jr. Day during a live virtual celebration of the Tri-County MLK Coalition’s 36th annual banquet. In addition to his work with UMES Extension’s 1890 Nutrition and Health program, he gives time to the Garland Hayward Youth Center’s after-school program and to the community as founder and senior pastor of Restoration of Christ’s Kingdom Community Church. He is also the founder and director of Young Men of Distinction, a mentoring program for male students in grades 3-12.
“One of my favorite quotes by Dr. King is, ‘The time is always right to do what is right,’” Curtis said. “I’m appreciative of this opportunity to be a blessing to the community because that is the right thing to do. It’s never a wrong time to do the right thing for yourselves and for your community.”
Curtis was also a recent honoree of the Princess Anne Town Commissioners for his contributions toward community development activities.
Remembering trailblazer Dr. Marvin Albert Fields
Black History Month is a time to remember trailblazing African Americans like Dr. Marvin Albert Fields who dedicated his entire life to agricultural education.
Fields spent 43 years at Virginia State College (now University) as an educator and agricultural leader. He was a prominent force in agriculture, helping shape the direction of today’s agriculture program at Virginia State University (VSU) and helping to shine a national spotlight on African American contributions to the field.
Fields, the son of a farmer, wasn’t a teacher of vocational agriculture by chance, but by choice. He advocated for and advanced the field of agricultural education and championed training qualified agriculture teachers, which were in short supply. Fields taught scores of students and steered them toward careers in teaching, especially vocational agriculture. He also worked to strengthen high school agriculture programs.
Fields was state adviser for the Virginia Association of New Farmers of America, an organization started for Black boys in agriculture. The organization played a prominent role in educating these youth about agriculture before it was absorbed into Future Farmers of America (FFA). After receiving his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agricultural education from Virginia State College, he completed a doctorate from The Ohio State University. Fields received a distinguished service award from the National Organization of Future Farmers of America for his dedication to agricultural education. To learn more about Fields, watch this video.
Virginia Cooperative Extension extends the resources of Virginia's two land-grant universities, Virginia State University and Virginia Tech, to solve problems facing Virginians every day.
West Virginia State University alumna helping entrepreneurial dreams come true
Since 2019, Tiffany Ellis-Williams has been helping entrepreneurs bring their business dreams to fruition as director of the West Virginia State University Economic Development Center (WVSU EDC), a business development incubator and coworking space.
The WVSU EDC, operated through WVSU Extension Service, provides entrepreneurs, start-ups, small businesses and members of the community access to a low-cost coworking and business incubation space and multimedia production facilities that include video and audio capturing spaces, rentable office spaces and meeting rooms. The center also provides various business and community development workshops and services that enable entrepreneurs or small businesses to start, grow and expand.
It’s a role perfectly suited to Ellis-Williams. “I oversee and manage the daily operations of the WVSU EDC,” she said of her role. “I also coordinate, facilitate, develop and implement programs that provide networking opportunities and enhance the skills and knowledge of entrepreneurs, small businesses and community members.”
Ellis-Williams believes the work being done at the WVSU EDC is benefiting West Virginia by increasing skills and knowledge in the areas of budgeting, business credit, search engine optimization, social media marketing, certification and procurement opportunities for minorities.
“I am proud that these programs provide free business development training to communities of color and the underserved who have limited access in order for them to succeed in their business endeavors,” Ellis-Williams said. The WVSU EDC serves thousands of clients with business training, consultations, workshops and services every year.