Extension TodayNews from and about the 1890 Land-Grant Extension System
Message from the Chair
Vonda Richardson Extension Administrator, Florida A&M University
This month’s edition of Extension Today highlights the 1890 land-grant system’s projects in agriculture and natural resources.
Cooperative Extension supports small farmers and underserved populations by providing programs that encourage resource conservation, landownership, land clearing and soil management, and the reduction of food insecurity. These valuable projects are serving the needs of our communities.
For those attending this year’s AEA System-Wide Conference in Orlando, Florida, you will come face to face with the impactful work of 1890 Extension in all areas of agriculture. I look forward to seeing and connecting with you all soon. Thank you for reading.
The Bulldog Garden
The Bulldog Garden (BG), launched in April 2022, is a 100-feet by 150-feet demonstration garden located on the grounds of Alabama A&M University’s Agribition Center in Huntsville, Alabama. It serves as a demonstration site for Alabama Extension’s urban agricultural programs. Audiences learn best management practices to establish and maintain popular gardening, such as raised bed and plasticulture gardening, as well as methods for traditional garden plots. The BG also combines several irrigation methods, planting designs, plant staking techniques and soil amendment applications based on soil test analyses.
The garden produces a variety of fresh produce and herbs, such as sweet potatoes, okra, corn, squash, basil and peppers, just to name a few. To date, more than 300 pounds of fresh produce and herbs have been harvested and shared among the public and through the Food Bank of North Alabama.
No project of this size is carried out without help. The BG received start-up funding from the Alabama’s Mountains, Rivers and Valleys RC&D Council, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 1890 Facilities Grant Program, the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Professional Development Program Grants and the University of Alabama in Birmingham’s Harvest for Health.
Contact Alabama Extension Specialist Rudy Pacumbaba at (256) 372-4266 for more information about this project.
Central State University Extension premiers Fastrack Farming 12-month new farmer training
Designed for those who want to begin farming, the Central State University Extension (CSU-CESTA Extension) Fastrack Farming Program will educate participants about the multiple aspects of managing a successful growing operation.
“Our Fastrack Farming program is well aligned with our priorities here in CSU-CESTA Extension,” says Dr. Michelle Corley, dean of the College of Engineering, Science, Technology and Agriculture (CESTA). “It is a part of our Value Added 21st Century Farming Technologies we are aiming to provide to our underserved farmers in Ohio.”
Participants who attend the 12-month training will receive a certificate of completion, says CSU-CESTA Extension Associate Director and Project Director Dr. Siddhartha Dasgupta.
“Prospective farmers should consider their participation as an investment in their future,” Dasgupta says. “The program is free, and participants will need to attend at least 12 months of training to receive a certificate of completion. Those who receive the certificate will have received knowledge of how to begin their own farming operation. Class topics include, but are not limited to, accessing land, making key farming decisions, soil management, beekeeping, hydroponics and aquaponics, vegetable and small fruit farming, integrated pest management, harvesting and sales.
Fastrack Farming Co-Director Dr. Alcinda (Cindy) Folck says the program focuses on beginning production and business planning. For more information about the Fastrack Faming program, contact Dasgupta at sdasgupta@CentralState.edu or Folck at afolck@CentralState.edu.
Dr. Kwame Matthews, animal scientist: DSU alum teaches students, reaches producers
With population growth comes greater attention to balancing food production using shrinking natural resources amidst a changing climate. Animal science is a growing industry in this regard and innovation in this space is essential, especially concerning smaller animals that grow faster than larger animals.
During the month of July, Delaware State University Cooperative Extension amplifies the work of Dr. Kwame Matthews, associate professor, animal scientist and small ruminant Extension specialist.
Five years ago, this author interviewed Matthews who had returned to Delaware State University (DSU), his alma mater, Aug. 25, 2016, to teach animal science courses in the Agriculture and Natural Resources Department. Then, his five-year goal was to develop a master plan to control parasites that affect sheep and goats while working toward promotion and tenure.
Nearly six years later, Matthews has earned his promotion and continues working to mitigate parasitic infections in small ruminants to benefit Delaware’s animal producers. Here is more of his story.
High tunnel production study: Control of garden fleahopper on leaf lettuce
By Alex Bolques, Ph.D.
The occurrence of the plant bug, garden fleahopper, Microtechnites bractatus (Say) in various cultivars of leafy lettuce (Lactuca sativa) was observed in 2020 and 2021 in a high tunnel production study. Nineteen leaf lettuce cultivars were evaluated for their plant performance and the incidence of bolting in a high tunnel versus open field. High tunnels are greenhouse-like structures that have been gaining popularity and have shown to be a profitable season-extension production system for many specialty horticultural crops.
The garden fleahopper (GFH) is a common insect found on weeds, ornamental plants and various vegetables. They feed on plant sap by piercing the leaf tissue with their piercing-sucking mouthparts. Feeding damage consists of whitish or yellowish foliar speckling. The number of GFH was greatest during the summer months in the high tunnel compared to the open field.
In organic food crops, like leaf lettuce, the GFH can be controlled with diatomaceous earth (DE) dusting. DE application can be via dry or spray mix solution to insect pests with an exoskeleton. For good results, apply DE to both upper and lower leaf surfaces for effective control. A spray solution can be mixed by adding 8 tablespoons of DE to 2 cups of water, which also has the advantage of applying the product on a windy day. Continuous spray solution agitation will help keep the product in suspension.
Lending a helping hand
By Russell Boone, Fort Valley State University Agricultural Communications Public Information Editor/Writer
Gregory Odom, along with his siblings and cousins, work a 101-acre farm near Montezuma, Georgia. Fifty-one acres of land are dedicated to livestock production. The remaining 50-acres are dedicated to growing various row crops such as collard greens, mustard greens, kale, tomatoes, okra and a variety of peas.
Even though Odom is a Macon County native, he lives in Covington where he commutes twice a week to the farm. On each return trip to Covington, he takes produce back to sell to his clients. For more than 30 years, Odom has enjoyed a working relationship with Fort Valley State University’s (FVSU) Cooperative Extension Program. Most of that time, he has worked with Ricky Waters, FVSU’s Extension agent for Macon County.
Odom said he really began closely collaborating with Waters on projects after his father, Timothy Odom Sr., passed more than 10 years ago. Waters used the Odom farm as a model for educating youth on the latest cutting-edge technology. This includes how to produce food using a high tunnel hoop house. He has also invited other 1890 Land-Grant Universities to tour the farming operation. Furthermore, the FVSU Extension agent continues to keep the Odom family abreast on services offered by various U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) agencies and farm programs that can be a benefit to their daily enterprise.
Odom, who is a third-generation farmer, has a modern irrigation system due to Waters’ help in providing proper information on securing a USDA loan.
“To have the water for the row crops is a blessing. When we go through these summer droughts and need water, we have water,” Odom said. He is thankful for his relationship with Waters and FVSU’s Cooperative Extension Program.
Third Thursday Thing celebrates 25 years of educating farmers on sustainable agriculture
Since 1997, Kentucky State University’s Land-Grant Program and Cooperative Extension Program have hosted Third Thursday Thing, a monthly workshop about sustainable agriculture.
Dr. Marion Simon applied for a Southern SARE grant for sustainable agriculture education, originally intended just for Kentucky State’s county agents. But as soon as farmers and other stakeholders heard about the trainings, they wanted to attend. Since the workshops became open to the public, attendance has gone “up and up and up,” said Simon.
Topics include organic agriculture, pawpaws, small ruminants, aquaculture and more. “Doesn’t make no difference on the topic,” said David Miller, a Lincoln County farmer. He has come to every month’s meeting for as long as he can remember.
Simon said she hopes Third Thursday continues for another 25 years as long as it continues to help farmers. “I don’t think it’s outlived its usefulness yet,” she said. “As long as it’s helping people to practice or understand sustainable agriculture, then I think it has a place.”
25th annual Small Farmers Conference: Broadening community partnerships
For more than two decades, the Langston University School of Agriculture & Applied Science (SAAS) Small Farmers Conference has been the premier annual event for Oklahoma’s small and diversified farming community to learn about tools, resources and ideas for operating profitable farms. The conference offers opportunities for the participants to continue their education and enjoy farmer-to-farmer networking.
Langston University’s Cooperative Extension and Outreach Programs (LU-CEOP) recently held its 25th annual Small Farmers Conference, “Innovate, Grow and Succeed in Food and Agriculture: Avenue to Building Stronger Oklahoma Communities,” on June 1-2 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Edmond, Oklahoma. Conference participants traveling from Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and Tennessee enjoyed more than 30 workshop sessions.
Several speakers with expertise presented on various topics, including how to start a new farm, adding small ruminants to the operation, land clearing and soil management, choosing between aquaponics and hydroponics, smart agriculture and climate considerations, heirs’ property and succession, Oklahoma Food Freedom Act, beekeeping, economics of growing in a hoop house, U.S. Department of Agriculture programs and resources, and agritourism.
Additionally, the conference featured educational information during breakout sessions, panel discussions, local farm tours, an engaging keynote address from a national speaker and networking opportunities. Dr. Dewayne Goldman (senior advisor for racial equity, USDA) served as the keynote speaker. Goldman has held many positions in the progression of agricultural science.
Action for food security, sustainability in the food deserts of Jefferson City
In spring 2020, the world faced unprecedented challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only did the pandemic disrupt the supply chain throughout the United States, but it also decreased access to healthy foods for everyone, especially those already struggling with food insecurity.
In response to the shortfall in food production and distribution, Lincoln University Cooperative Extension sought ways to provide assistance. Through the “Action for Food Security and Sustainability in Missouri” Project, the Innovative Small Farmers’ Outreach Program and the Human Nutrition and Health Program joined forces with the goal of reducing food insecurity in Jefferson City and providing locally grown vegetables to the community.
Growing these vegetables, using integrated pest management (IPM) and good agricultural practices, as well as educating the community on the importance of nutrition, all contributed to the success of creating a food-secure and healthier population.
Emerging crops, best practices on display at Small Farms Field Day 2022
More than 150 farmers, growers and other agriculture professionals came to the University Farm for the first time in two years to learn techniques, see demonstrations and hear updates from the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences and N.C. A&T Cooperative Extension during Small Farms Field Day held June 23.
The field day, making its return as an in-person event this year following two years as a virtual event during the COVID pandemic, offered concurrent sessions of organic and conventional field demonstrations from university and Extension professionals.
“We’ve been making sure you have practical knowledge that you can use in your operation,” Extension horticulture specialist Sanjun Gu, Ph.D., told the crowd in opening the event. “This is for you, the small farmer, so that you can apply Aggie know-how to boost your bottom line.”
Two varieties of bamboo, one of the state’s emerging crops, were on display on the conventional field tour. Planted four years ago, shoots from the bamboo on the 1-acre plot should be ready for harvesting next spring, said Robert Stevenson of commercial bamboo farming company OnlyMoso, which is partnering with the college. Bamboo can be harvested all over the U.S. and used in its entirety, Stevenson said.
Sustainable forestry and African American land retention
By Angela L. Moore
The Agriculture and Natural Resources (AgNR) section of the Cooperative Extension Program (CEP) at Prairie View A&M University’s College of Agriculture and Human Sciences (CAHS) is three months into its second year of its hugely popular Sustainable Forestry and African American Land Retention Program. By most accounts, the SFLR Program, as it is commonly known, has been an overwhelming success.
The SFLR Program, launched in 2020 through a two-year grant from the American Forest Foundation (AFF) to Prairie View A&M University, makes it one of only two that are administered by an 1890 Land-Grant Institution within the SFLR Network, which is comprised of eight partnering organizations nationally.
One of the key components of the SFLR Program is forestry and educating landowners about sustainable forestry practices. Land retention, particularly, as it relates to African Americans, is a second key component of the SFLR Program. Research shows that land retention in the African American community lags far behind the levels of land retention for other segments of the population. One reason is believed to be due to a lack of will preparation and estate planning, without which the land becomes heirs’ property. When land is categorized as heirs’ property, it usually means multiple people jointly share ownership of the property. This status quite often leads to the land being lost, either due to non-payment of property taxes, a forced sale or many other means.
Individuals interested in attending any of the SFLR events should contact their local CEP county Extension agent or Angela Moore at (936) 261-5002 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SC State 1890 hosts inaugural Beginning Farmers, Ranchers, Veterans Conference
Contributing to the growth of the agriculture industry in the Palmetto State, South Carolina State University 1890 Extension's Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resources program hosted the inaugural Beginning Farmers, Ranchers and Veterans Conference on Thursday, May 26, at Camp Harry E. Daniels, located in Elloree, South Carolina.
Approximately 60 aspiring agriculture entrepreneurs attended the event. 1890 Extension agriculture agents and industry leaders from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Farm Service Agency gave valuable insight on the best management practices for basic crop production and livestock, and informed farmers of ways to help maximize their profit.
In addition, attendees learned about the best food safety practices, e-commence and marketing strategies, the importance of partnerships and the stressors that impact farmers' mental health.
“Farmers face a number of challenges due to limited resources and a lack of information. At an 1890, we want to assist those facing socioeconomic disadvantages,” Joshua Idassi, state program leader for sustainable agriculture and natural resources stated. “With the Beginning Farmers, Ranchers and Veterans Conference, aspiring ag entrepreneurs receive tools and resources through a farmer-to-farmer experience, which strengthens relationships that help advance the agriculture industry not only in South Carolina but across the globe.”
To view photos from the event click here.
SU Ag Center teaches youths urban farming, gardening practices through its D.U.A.L. Program
For the second year, the Southern University Ag Center has held its Demonstration Urban Agricultural Landscapes (D.U.A.L.) Program for youths in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
D.U.A.L. is providing student learners from the age of 9-15 with general garden practices, agricultural technology training and poultry farming in an urban environment. The program introduces opportunities for relationship and interpersonal skill development, constructive community engagement, informal social control, explorative cognitive and behavioral competencies, and improved nutrition. During the program’s three sessions, which are held in July, youths receive hands-on learning in selecting an urban farm site, preparing the site, planting and tending to the garden, harvesting, ag tech production and backyard poultry production.
Gardening with children increases their cognitive development, as well as intellectual skills such as remembering and analyzing information and predicting outcomes. Community gardens are a great way to get children and young adults to learn about nutrition.
The D.U.A.L. curriculum focuses on promoting community farms and gardens with educational goals to help students, school staff, NGOs and families make the connection between growing food and animal husbandry, the development of life skills and increasing environmental awareness.
For additional information about the D.U.A.L. Youth Farm and Garden Curriculum, contact Dr. Marlin Ford, research assistant professor and urban agricultural specialist at email@example.com.
Tennessee New Farmer Academy cultivates sustainable agricultural enterprises
By Janiece M. Pigg
Through the Tennessee New Farmer Academy, Tennessee State University (TSU) Cooperative Extension is proactively fostering new agricultural entrepreneurs and producers into the economically vibrant production agricultural industry throughout the state of Tennessee.
The Tennessee New Farmer Academy, designed and facilitated by Director Finis Stribling, is a seven-month certificate program designed for individuals from diverse backgrounds with a keen interest in becoming prosperous agricultural entrepreneurs. This program utilizes an interactive, experiential learning andragogy to develop the next generation of agricultural enterprises.
The Tennessee New Farmer Academy welcomes all individuals who are new to agriculture, who wish to transition into agriculture from another field, such as military service or the private sector, and those looking for a post-retirement opportunity. This influential Cooperative Extension program cultivates graduates through teaching agricultural concepts and technologies, providing relevant information and resources, and facilitating a hands-on, interactive experience needed to build solid, sustainable and successful agricultural businesses. Even though this program is located throughout Tennessee, program participants originate from all over the country.
To learn more, contact Stribling at firstname.lastname@example.org.
UAPB helps Arkansas’ small farmers obtain USDA-NRCS funding to better their operations
Socially disadvantaged farmers in Arkansas benefit from a decades-old partnership between the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), says Charley Williams, a UAPB alumnus and veteran NRCS soil conservationist.
“NRCS wants to get timely information out to the public and provide resources to farmers and landowners to aid them with conservation,” he said. “UAPB wants to help socially disadvantaged farmers apply conservation practices to their land so their operations will be more sustainable and profitable. So, it makes sense that these two entities would work together to reach out to minority farmers.”
Around 2010, the NRCS started training UAPB Extension personnel to help producers apply for the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP). EQIP financial assistance allows producers to install conservation practices in areas such as improving irrigation efficiency, promoting soil health or restoring pastureland on their farm or ranch.
“Now we are to the point where UAPB has a workforce of associates trained by the NRCS who are able to connect small-scale farmers to new NRCS initiatives – everything from the installation of high tunnels to irrigation and water management,” Williams said. “We have a staff that includes trained foresters, conservationists and retired NRCS employees – everyone knows EQIP like the back of their hand. This is our silver bullet to success.”
Virginia Cooperative Extension at VSU launches mobile processing unit
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the interest in and demand for locally produced food is growing. Unfortunately, small ruminant farmers in central, southern and eastern Virginia have limited access to state or federally inspected meat processing facilities. As a result, they experience costly scheduling delays, increased labor and transportation costs and premium processing charges. These issues impede access to the local markets and reduce producer profitability.
To assist small-scale farmers, Cooperative Extension at Virginia State University (VCE-VSU) designed a mobile processing unit (MPU) and developed an MPU Certification Program, which is funded by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) at USDA.
The certification program consists of four online modules and a hands-on module at VCE-VSU’s Randolph Farm. Participants learn how to process small ruminant red meat safely, butcher consumer cuts, compost properly, manage waste and market their products. To receive an MPU certification, participants must complete all program assignments and submit a USDA Grant of Inspection for processing at their farm. Certified farmers may lease the MPU for processing at their own farms at significant savings.
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.
Mobile Cold Storage Program helps agriculturalists preserve produce
By Alisha Jarrett
West Virginia State University Extension Service has created a cold storage program that helps farmers extend the life of their vegetation during their travels. The free program provides 10 mobile refrigerated trailers for agriculturalists to rent statewide for the transportation of produce to farmers markets and other locations.
“We have regulars who use the units often,” said Kristie Martin, WVSU agricultural agent. “People can come and pick up the trailers themselves or we can meet people depending on their location.”
Before the program was created, farmers lost a surplus of crops due to the inability to keep produce optimally fresh during transport. Growers would fill coolers with ice to chill the produce during their commute, which could sometimes be lengthy. Time and weather are also major factors for farmers to consider when moving goods. Produce loses its taste, nutrients, texture and value if it is not stored in the optimal conditions, which ultimately results in a waste of time and money.
“These cold storage units have had a much larger impact than we had anticipated, especially during the pandemic. It changed the way that people are implementing these resources,” said Martin.