Extension TodayNews from and about the 1890 Land-Grant Extension System
Message from the Chair
Vonda Richardson Extension Administrator, Florida A&M University
Happy New Year!
We start 2021 with the Extension Today newsletter highlighting the activities and impact of 1890 Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) Extension programming. 1890 Extension is on the front lines of agriculture and the environment, building stronger and more diverse farm and food systems, as well as supporting the land, forestry, wildlife and water resource needs of individuals and communities in our 18 states.
1890 ANR Extension specialists, agents and educators provide leadership in determining, implementing and evaluating educational programs designed to solve social, economic and environmental problems in agriculture and natural resources.
We appreciate you taking the time to read about the talented expertise in 1890 Cooperative Extension and the crucial role we play in improving agricultural productivity, increasing food security, enhancing rural livelihoods, and promoting agriculture and natural resources for economic growth.
Continue to stay safe and protect each other.
Meat goat forestry project completes phase 1
By Wendi Williams & Valens Niyigena
In August 2020, 53 meat goats arrived at Alabama A&M University’s Winfred Thomas Agricultural Research Station from Tennessee State University’s research farm in Nashville. Their anticipated arrival marked the initial phase of Alabama Cooperative Extension System and Alabama A&M’s project, Advantages of Using Forestland for Meat Goat Production. This three-year project is funded by a $347,000 capacity grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
Extension and Alabama A&M (AAMU) researchers are using project results to increase awareness of agroforestry’s economic, social and environmental benefits to farmers and forest landowners. With careful planning, forestland owners and small ruminant (especially meat goat) producers can benefit from integrating meat goat production and agroforestry as a dual source of income. In addition, AAMU forestry majors get to learn about animal production, forestry management and the benefits of integrating agroforestry with livestock production.
A virtual farm demonstration was held in December 2020 to mark the end of phase 1. Participants explored the results of goats browsing 45 acres of understory vegetation.
After the session, several participants expressed interest in adding goats to their operations. Contact Extension animal scientist Dr. Valens Niyigena at email@example.com to learn more about this project.
Alcorn State University Extension Program conducts fruit tree demonstration project
By Dr. James Garner
Members of the Alcorn State University Extension Program (ASUEP) recently teamed up to conduct a fruit tree demonstration project targeting orchard management and rejuvenation.
The activity took place in Winston County, Mississippi, at the home of Brenda Craig, an avid supporter and client of the ASUEP. Craig agreed that community orchard field days could be held on her property, which features an established orchard with long-standing and moderately young plantings of various fruit trees.
Over time, Alcorn Extension personnel have assisted Craig in restoring and managing her orchard as a demonstration site. As a result, she can better serve fresh fruits and vegetables to several members of her community. Fruit types included in the orchard are peaches, plums and pears. Days of first bloom and chilling hours will be recorded in the following years to determine which trees are best suitable for Winston County’s growing conditions. Orchard insects and disease will also be monitored throughout the duration of the project.
For more information, visit www.alcorn.edu/extension. You may also contact the Extension office at (601) 877-6128.
Central State University Extension co-authors award-winning Spotted Lanternfly fact sheet
A fact sheet about the Spotted Lanternfly (SLF), co-authored by a Central State University Extension (CSUE) regional educator and The Ohio State University, has received first place honors in the Ohio Joint Council of Extension Professionals Creative Works Award in the fact sheet category.
Co-written by former CSUE regional educator Jamie Dahl, who has since recently relocated to Colorado, the fact sheet shares information on the new non-native invasive insect pest in the United States. The insect has been sighted in Jefferson County, Ohio, says CSUE Agriculture and Natural Resources Program Director Dr. Cindy Folck.
After hatching in the late spring, the SLF goes through four nymph stages. By midsummer, the nymph SLF can be identified by its red body, roughly a half-inch in size, with black stripes and white dots. During the late summer until roughly November, the SLF is in the adult moth stage. These adults are larger, roughly 1 inch in size, with black bodies and brightly colored wings.
The preferred host of the SLF is Ailanthus altissima (Tree of Heaven), which is also an introduced invasive species. SLF nymphs and adults have been reported feeding on wild and domestic grapes, hops, fruit trees, willow, various hardwood trees, pines, shrubs and vines. Anyone with a suspected SLF sighting is asked to report them to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, CSUE or the Great Lakes Early Detection Network (GLEDN) mobile app.
Master Gardeners sprout online viewers
Cooperative Extension's Small Farms team at Delaware State University found innovative ways to keep their audiences engaged virtually despite COVID-19 disruptions.
One such effort, an online workshop series created by Extension educator Megan Pleasanton and Kent County Master Gardeners, has blossomed into a ready resource for home gardeners.
Since last May, Pleasanton and the volunteer Master Gardeners have planned and filmed 12 sessions, each at least one hour long. These Zoom sessions are then packaged by the information coordinator for the College of Agriculture, Science and Technology, and posted to the college's YouTube account and the Extension webpage. Topics range from growing tomatoes in Delaware, to fall lawn care, to creating a kitchen herb garden.
"Our virtual workshops have been super beneficial to the community during this difficult time," Pleasanton said. "People are spending much more time at home and that allows them to enjoy the many benefits of gardening."
Beginning farmers and ranchers reinvest their stipends into their farms
The FAMU Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) provides a $200 stipend to each limited resource farmer to offset their costs of participating in program events. These include the cost of travel to workshops, meals, accommodations, etc. However, seeing that financial resources are hard to come by, many farmers are making rational decisions concerning the best use to which to allocate their stipends.
Recent trends have shown that beginning farmers have been using their stipends to acquire resources that are critical to their future development as farmers. For example, one family of three have pooled their stipends to generate sufficient money to help offset expenses related to their internship with Heifer International. The family wishes to start an organic farm and saw the internship with Heifer International as a great opportunity to receive the relevant experiential training to start their own farm.
After three months of training, they mastered skills in raising poultry, sheep, hogs and cows. They also learned to vaccinate animals and drive a tractor. This farm family is now closer to realizing their dream. The BFRDP will continue to pair beginning farmers and ranchers with progressive farmers relevant to their enterprise goals.
Lee County youth gets early start in agribusiness
By Russell Boone, Fort Valley State University Agricultural Communications Public Information Editor/Writer
Shonkia Holsey is preparing herself for a career in agriculture. The 17-year-old Leesburg native is using futuristic technology in the form of hydroponic towers to grow crops. Hydroponics is the practice of growing plants in water or other solutions without the use of soil.
“I thought this was a neat and innovative way to grow leafy vegetables fast,” Shonkia said. Her hydroponics operation consists of three towers located on a 40-acre farm owned by her parents Shon (father) and Chiquita (mother) Holsey in Lee County. She said this inspired her to get involved with agriculture.
With help from Charlie Grace, Fort Valley State University area Extension agent, the rising Lee County High School senior applied for and successfully received a $5,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) Youth Loan. As an Extension agent, Grace said he feels honored that Shonkia’s parents have allowed him to be her agricultural mentor. He says he will advise her about entrepreneurship, financial management, recordkeeping and introduce her to horticulture relating to the hydroponic tower project.
“I was excited that I would be given the opportunity to start my own business,” Shonkia said. The Leesburg native said the loan allowed her to purchase the hydroponic towers, seeds and other equipment. After graduating from high school, Shonkia plans to attend college and major in business with a minor in agribusiness.
Teaching farmers how to perform fecal flotations and fecal egg counts in their herds
The largest challenge for small ruminant producers in the southeastern United States is parasites. Parasites cause huge production losses for sheep and goat farmers in the state of Kentucky. In Kentucky, there is a shortage of veterinarians, assisting farmers in doing their own fecal flotations and fecal egg counts.
To address these concerns, Cooperative Extension at Kentucky State University hosted several educational programs to help farmers understand the latest information on internal parasites. During these hands-on labs, farmers were able to bring in samples and perform a test with the KSU Extension veterinarian to learn how to perform the tests themselves on multiple microscopes.
More than 80 farmers have already participated in the animal health program. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual Extension programs have been created to teach farmers online, using pictures taken through the HDMI microscope and broadcasting the images and videos through Zoom and Facebook Watch Party to reach more than 300 additional viewers.
As a result of the workshops, small ruminant producers have been able to learn how to do fecal egg counts themselves while at their farm and have reduced the cost of fecal testing and monitoring, which saves producers a significant amount of money and increases overall farm profitability.
Multicultural impacts of the American Institute for Goat Research at Langston University
Many goat producers obtain information from the World Wide Web. While proper, science-based information does exist on the internet, producers with little to no livestock experience have no background to discern "good" versus "bad" information. To provide unbiased, science-based information, The E (KIKA) De La Garza American Institute for Goat Research within the LU-SAAS launched online certification courses for meat goats and then later for dairy goat producers.
In 2020, these online courses were translated into Spanish. Faculty at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez (UPR) were collaborators on this project and 31 undergraduate and one graduate animal science students at UPR enrolled in the SP courses for beta-testing. Nineteen students completed the Spanish dairy online course, nine completed Spanish meat online courses, and four completed both. Participants take a pre-test (PRE) and if the PRE score is less than 85 percent, a post-test (POST) is required.
To complete the dairy course, passing scores are required on all 18 required modules and seven of 10 elective modules. To complete the meat course, passing scores are required on all 21 required modules and nine of 12 elective modules. The difference (DIFF) between PRE and POST scores are a measure of knowledge transfer. DIFF for the UPR students averaged 34 percent across modules, which demonstrates a significant knowledge transfer.
One UPR student said, “I was greatly excited about being able to learn in-depth about dairy and meat goats since I want to specialize in small ruminants when I go to vet school.”
Lincoln launches two new initiatives
The Professional Agricultural Workers Conference at Tuskegee University has inspired Lincoln University of Missouri to launch two new initiatives in the past few years: the Jesup Wagon 2.0 and Lincoln University Hemp Institute.
The Jesup Wagon 2.0 is based on the original Jesup Wagon George Washington Carver used to teach farmers about new agricultural methods. A team from the Lincoln University Cooperative Extension and the University of Missouri Extension designed five individual kits with input and suggestions from farmer collaborators.
The kits are irrigation, season extension, ergonomic tools, personal protective equipment and tillage and planting tools. To date, individual kits and/or the entire physical trailer have been featured at more than 40 educational conferences, field days and twilight farm tours hosted by the Cooperative Extension. More than 7,000 people throughout the Midwest have attended a short course or full-length hands-on demonstration highlighting various technologies available to help farmers do what they love to do.
Additionally, the Hemp Institute has been developed so that Missouri’s small and mid-sized farmers can benefit financially from the ever-growing hemp industry. The Hemp Institute started its maiden Extension and research activities in 2020. The LUHI planted five different varieties each of fiber, seed and flower (Cannabigerol and Cannabidiol) plants.
New farm pavilion at N.C. A&T means new opportunities for Extension
After years of hard work, focus and dedication, a new 17,000-square-foot pavilion for the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University is now complete.
The $6 million CAES Extension and Farm Pavilion includes a multi-use great room that can be subdivided into smaller spaces, wet and dry laboratories, a 50-seat classroom, conference rooms, offices and a demonstration kitchen. The entrance hall is extra wide to allow it to be used as exhibition space, and an adjacent outside space can accommodate agriculture-related programs such as farm equipment shows or livestock exhibitions.
“This just opens up the door for us to do so much more,” said Rosalind Dale, Ed.D., associate dean and Extension administrator.
For example, young people involved in a healthy eating and cooking program funded by the Walmart Foundation will have a convenient kitchen and classroom space and no longer need to work around the schedules of the campus kitchen or the local Extension center. Staff who provide training to farmers during the colder months now have a meeting place that is protected from the elements. The space also can be used to host workshops, demonstrations and even small conferences.
PVAMU’s SFLR to help save Black family land
The loss of historic Black family land is endemic in the southeastern United States. Likewise, discrimination and economic factors have diminished the value of Black-owned forests. However, a new project led by Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU) will work to reverse these trends and help families make money by using what they already have – forests on their land.
The American Forest Foundation (AFF) has awarded PVAMU a two-year grant to implement the Sustainable Forestry and African American Land Retention (SFLR) Program in Texas. The $310,000 gift will allow the Cooperative Extension Program’s Agriculture and Natural Resources (AgNR) Unit in PVAMU’s College of Agriculture and Human Sciences (CAHS) to spearhead the program.
“Our goal is to help Texas landowners avoid heir’s property and land retention issues and understand the value of properly managing forestland,” said Clarence Bunch, Ph.D., AgNR program leader. “I feel that if we can foster stable ownership to prevent land loss and abandonment, property owners can reap the many economic and sociocultural benefits for their families.”
Bunch is developing a program at PVAMU called the Small Farm Institute Program (SFIP), which can help farmers and ranchers refine their skills, foster resilience in the agriculture community, enhance food supply, and engage in innovative research and Extension initiatives. He says through SFLR, PVAMU will build upon its SFIP experience and partnerships to assist ranchers and farmers with forestry and land retention education in counties in eastern Texas, which is a high priority area identified by the Texas A&M Forest Service. For more information about the SFLR Program, contact Bunch at (936) 261-5117.
SC State 1890 Collards Project targets food deserts in Pee Dee region
To support the need for sustainable agriculture and natural resources in Marlboro County, the South Carolina State 1890 Research & Extension Pee Dee region relaunched its Collards Project in response to the growing food insecurity crisis impacting families. With food deserts being one of the key social determinants of health concerns globally and across the state, Regional Director Deborah Hardison made it her mission to feed families in communities with limited access to fresh and affordable food across the county.
"To address some of the health concerns and food disparities, we wanted to provide fresh food options to the areas that are affected the most," Hardison stated. “Through the Collards Project, our growers provided organic collards to 13 families in Bennettsville and surrounding areas."
Bennettsville, the Marlboro County governmental seat, is recognized for its rich soil and agricultural community; however, a significant portion of its community members are affected by various lifestyle diseases due to limited access to affordable and nutritional food. To help eliminate this problem, Hardison reached out to the city's newly elected mayor, Dr. Carolyn Prince.
Prince made history in 2020 when she was elected the first African American mayor in Bennettsville's 200-year history. "Mayor Prince knows this community," said Hardison. "She was instrumental in getting the produce delivered to families."
Extension agents in the Pee Dee region continue to work to identify community needs across the region that will benefit from their community garden projects and other health initiatives. For more information about the Collards Project or future events in the Pee Dee region, contact Hardison at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit scsu.edu/1890.aspx.
SU Ag Center’s St. Helena Farmers Market turns a food desert into a healthier community
The small Parish of St. Helena is located in southeast Louisiana with a population of 10,016 residents. Although the Parish is comprised of cities covered in green pastures and rural scenes, ideal for farm life, it is classified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as an extreme food desert. As a result of the scarcity of nutritious foods, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the health risk of St. Helena's citizens as severe, due to high percentages of hypertension, diabetes, strokes and cancer.
Having only two grocery stores and little to no access to fresh produce, the Southern University Ag Center’s Agricultural and Natural Resources Unit recognized the need within the community.
In 2017, three vendors participated in the first farmers market and sold all of their produce within three hours. The market has increased to 14 vendors, including local farmers, bakers and craftsmen and provides access to fresh local fruits, vegetables, meats and homemade canned products. The market also helps to keep food dollars local and provides economic opportunities in a depressed economic community. The weekly customer base has also increased from 35 per week in 2017 to about 160 per week in 2020.
The St. Helena Farmers Market operates every Friday from 8 a.m. - 1 p.m. at the corner of Highway 10 and Highway 43 in Greensburg, Louisiana.
Extension agents serve as online first responders educating rural America
By Jason De Koff
Over the last several months, Tennessee State University Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension agents and area specialists have risen to the challenge created by COVID-19. While they have all had to adjust in their daily work and home lives, these individuals were able to continue to make impacts across the state. Find out what they have been up to and be sure to reach out to them if there is something that interests you.
In the Central Region, Area Nursery Specialist Amy Dismukes engaged in numerous nursery visits with an estimated economic impact of $520,000. She also continued distributing her “TSU Nursery News to Use” monthly newsletter to around 500 stakeholders.
In Coffee County, agent Anna Duncan implemented a program called “Small Gardens in Small Spaces,” and 92 percent of the participants indicated that the program would assist them in some new ideas. She also engaged 600 youth and Master Gardeners in online gardening programs.
In Franklin County, agent John Ferrell noted an increase in phone calls and site visits and had social media posts that reached more than 2,400 contacts. The local farmers market created a drive-thru option that resulted in more than $30,000 in sales.
Landowner furthers family farm legacy through partnership with UAPB Forestry Program
Shawn Boler, an absentee landowner, contacted specialists of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Keeping it in the Family (KIITF) Sustainable Forestry and African American Land Retention program seeking ways to protect and enhance the family land his great-grandfather purchased more than 120 years ago for which he is executor.
Boler’s active stewardship of the land has paid off. This year, the family farm, located in Howard County, Arkansas, and known as the Adamson Estate, was recognized as a certified American Tree Farm and Arkansas Century Farm. Boler said collaboration with UAPB’s KIITF program has helped him develop a better understanding of ways to improve the land for future generations.
“Being recognized as a Century Farm is an astonishing accomplishment within its own right, but it is even more impressive to see an African American family maintain and stay committed to being good stewards of the land by promoting healthy woodlands and wildlife habitats,” Kandi Williams, outreach coordinator for KIITF, said. “In the last century, African American landowners have lost their land at an alarming rate, from approximately 16 to 19 million acres in 1910 to around 3.8 million acres in 2017. Mr. Boler’s participation in the KIITF program can serve as an example for other landowners.”
Small Farm Conference carries on despite COVID-19 challenges
The theme from the 17th annual Small Farm Conference sums it up, “Remaining Resilient and Innovative.” Organizers rose to the pandemic-era challenge of shifting to a hybrid format, which met the needs of both in-person and virtual attendees.
“The uncertainty of the times combined with the many considerations on how to ensure the safety of attendees led to changes that we certainly never anticipated,” said Berran Rogers, coordinator of UMES Extension’s Small Farm Program and chair of the conference. “Nonetheless, it was impressive to see how everything came together for the benefit of our stakeholders.”
Field tours limited to 15 people per session were held on Friday, Nov. 6. More than 100 registrants took advantage of virtual sessions on Saturday, Nov. 7. Some of the most popular topics were “Bio-Dynamic Farming Principles and Advantages,” “Financial Planning and Management Strategies in Uncertain Times” and “Development of African Caribbean Specialty Crops.”
The virtual aspect of the conference, Rogers said, made it possible “to attract participants from across the country and as far away as Nigeria.”
VSU’s mobile processing unit on the move soon
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic impacted meat processing plants around the nation, small ruminant producers in Virginia were struggling to find facilities to process their sheep and goats for market.
Not only are there limited meat processing facilities in Central Virginia, but often these small producers must compete with larger livestock operations just to get on the schedule at a processing plant, resulting in waits as long as 10 months during the pandemic, said Dr. Dahlia O’Brien, Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) small ruminant specialist at Virginia State University (VSU).
Often these small producers must travel hours from their farms to get to a processing plant, leave their animals there to be slaughtered and then return for the meat products they hope to market. Having to wait long periods to get appointments and round-trip travel costs can negatively impact the farmers’ ability to make a profit on their products. Scientists at VSU also need ways to process their small ruminants to further their research.
That’s why a team of Extension specialists and researchers at VSU applied for a grant in 2015 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA). O’Brien, who is the principal investigator, was awarded $249,582 to design and build a custom-made mobile unit to give small producers access to much needed processing capabilities and to aid VSU scientists in their research.
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.
WVSU Extension Service studying effects of climate change
West Virginia State University (WVSU) Extension Service is conducting a weather study in the state over a three-year period in an effort to inform landowners and agricultural producers about the effects of climate change in the region.
The project is collecting weather data from all over the state in order to study microclimates and climate changes. The data collected will provide participants with seasonal information that can then be compared to regional, historical data for accuracy and provide an overall picture of any possible effects of climate change in the state.
“While there are other weather data collection projects going on in the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S., West Virginia is underrepresented,” said WVSU Extension Agent Liz Moss. “There is a great need to study not only precipitation but also temperature and wind patterns in the state, which forms the backbone of the Appalachian Mountains.”
Participants are provided a Wi-Fi enabled weather station that transmits data directly to Moss. The station consists of a self-emptying rain gauge, and anemometer and thermometer/hygrometer sensors that communicate wirelessly with an indoor unit. As of December 2020, 66 stations are operational in 37 of the state’s 55 counties.