Extension TodayNews from and about the 1890 Land-Grant Extension System
Message from the Chair
Vonda Richardson Extension Administrator, Florida A&M University
June’s edition of Extension Today focuses on our 1890 land-grant Extension professionals’ diversity and inclusion efforts.
To foster positive change, our 1890 institutions are partnering with organizations to offer programs designed to bring diverse communities together to discuss issues such as race and discrimination. In addition, Cooperative Extension across the system is engaging in projects to provide needed resources to socially disadvantaged farmers. These initiatives are helping farmers and families thrive while bridging cultural gaps.
AEA highlights Extension’s efforts in creating spaces for open discussion, awareness and inclusivity.
Building inclusive communities
In 2016, the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy established the program Coming Together for Racial Understanding (Coming Together). The vision is “to grow a community of Extension professionals well prepared to foster meaningful community conversations around race” that leads to positive change.
The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama Extension) is also committed to this initiative and appointed several individuals to enroll in the train-the-trainer program, including Danielle Rudolph, site director for the Virginia Caples Lifelong Learning Institute at Alabama A&M University. Rudolph completed the Coming Together training in 2021, and this year, she co-facilitated a virtual learning lab of six sessions for national Extension staff who will attend further training in their respective states.
Regarding the training, Rudolph said, “I found the sessions to be cathartic. The training provides a safe place for participants to talk freely about their personal experiences regarding race. The next step is to conduct an introductory presentation and then subsequent trainings among Alabama Extension staff collectively.”
Alabama Extension has included diversity, equity and inclusion as part of its strategic plan. The Coming Together training will aid in preparing Extension staff and in educating diverse audiences about building more inclusive communities.
Central State University Extension creates unique programs to reach marginalized communities
Dedicated to reaching new communities requiring vital educational opportunities, Central State University Extension has created programming designed to improve the lives of underrepresented Ohio residents.
Here is one example of programs being offered by the Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) program area. CSU Extension ANR educator Michelle Wallace is based in northwest Ohio and has started working with Mansfield Correctional Institute to bring in-person training to a select group of inmates who work at the Richland Gro-op Farms and North End Community Improvement Collaboration (NECIC).
Training will include starting seeds, thinning transplants, direct seeding, spacing, training tomatoes in a high tunnel, removing suckers, pruning tomato vines, scouting for pests, putting up insect traps, sanitation and record-keeping methods. Certificates will be awarded to those who complete the training.
Program goals include having the inmates continue their relationship with the farming cooperative and start their own farming operation. For more information about CSU-Extension programs, contact Dr. Dasgupta at sdasgupta@CentralState.edu.
Paradigm shifting: Promoting diversity…disarming bias
DEI is the buzz acronym these days. Public agencies and privately-owned companies alike have either hired employees for or created internal teams to build diversity, equity and inclusion programs. The national Cooperative Extension system is no different.
Through the Coming Together for Racial Understanding (CTRU) initiative, coordinated by the Southern Rural Development Center (SRDC) at Mississippi State University, land-grant institutions, like Delaware State University, have begun training Extension personnel to help facilitate community-based dialogue on race and discrimination issues.
During the month of June, Delaware State University Cooperative Extension celebrates Harry Thayer, 4-H and Youth Development program leader, and Dean Purnell, Youth Program educator, for their dedicated diversity and inclusion training methods.
FAMU outreach projects mitigate issues facing socially disadvantaged farmers, ranchers
FAMU Cooperative Extension Program is currently engaged in several critical projects that address factors that limit the success of socially disadvantaged (SDA) farmers and ranchers. Some of those projects include:
- Connecting Limited Resource Farmers to USDA Resources: This project is a part of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) and is geared toward helping limited resource farmers and ranchers understand which USDA programs and services are currently available and beneficial. Farmers are trained on how to register their farms to obtain benefits, such as the disaster relief program, which is designed to mitigate the effects of adverse weather conditions, pests and diseases.
- Access to Capital for Black and other SDA Farmers and Ranchers: A partnership with five other 1890 universities to conduct a survey that aids in the development of agricultural policy for improving the livelihood of the nations’ SDA farmers and ranchers. This involves a needs analysis geared toward identifying factors that limit access to credit for SDA farmers. The expectation is that the data generated will be used to formulate the 2023 Farm Bill.
- Equipping Urban Farmers with Survival Skills: This project, in the beginning stages, will target new and existing urban underserved farmers with an emphasis on farmers of color. The focus is on helping urban farmers overcome barriers that prevent them from growing produce, raising animals or producing textile materials that can promote food security. The 2020 census revealed a return to urban growth with the highest growth rates among cities in the South.
Farmers receive certification assistance from Fort Valley State University’s Cooperative Extension Program
By Russell Boone, Fort Valley State University Agricultural Communications Public Information Editor/Writer
Fort Valley State University’s (FVSU) Cooperative Extension Program is providing socially disadvantaged farmers opportunities to have their produce approved for sales.
This is made possible by a grant secured from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement (OPPE) to help farmers pay fees for Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) audits. GAP audits are used to ensure that farmers selling their products are properly using sanitary procedures. This includes verifying that fruits and vegetables are produced, packed, picked and stored in a manner that minimizes the development of hazardous microbes, which cause foodborne illnesses.
Robert Taylor, owner of Tilford Farms in Warner Robins, Georgia, is one of FVSU’s small farmers participating in the GAP audits sponsored by Cooperative Extension. On his 7-acre farm near Perry, Georgia, Taylor grows various greens that include collards and kale, as well as onions.
“Through Fort Valley State, we’ve been doing some training, and they had some traceability programs we participated in while there,” Taylor said. He explained that a traceability program is when produce is put on the market and if someone should fall ill from consuming the product, that product can be traced back to its source. The Houston County farmer said that he sought GAP certification so he could furnish produce to the local USDA Women, Infants and Children (WIC) special supplemental nutrition program.
Kentucky State Extension agent reaches Hispanic/Latinx, Spanish-speaking community
Community resource development agent Jessica Marquez serves the Hispanic/Latinx population in Jefferson and Shelby counties, Kentucky. Her mission is to bring educational programming and research-based information to both Spanish-speaking and non-Spanish-speaking Hispanic/Latinx community members to enhance their quality of life.
Marquez’s programming often focuses on financial literacy. Alongside Eastern Area Community Ministries, she provides financial education to 12 immigrant Spanish-speaking women.
Another focus is college, career and workforce development. She is partnering with Louisville Latino Education Outreach and La Casita Center for an educational series called “Futuros” that educates students on everything related to college and career readiness. This spring, she taught a College and Career Readiness program for the Jefferson County Public School Newcomer Academy. The class included 30 students from four different countries, speaking six different languages.
Marquez keeps Hispanic/Latinx community members updated on available programs through a Spanish Facebook group, sharing opportunities and information that many would otherwise miss.
“Being Hispanic/Latinx myself, I want to ensure that my people are being reached and given the same opportunities as others that can enhance their quality of life for generations to come,” Marquez said.
Land-grant institutions collaborate for community impact
A commitment to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion has become a reality for many land-grant colleagues via OSU Extension’s DEI vision. The Coming Together for Racial Understanding (CTRU) Oklahoma State National Training Team was established in 2019 and continues to grow with participants from three land-grant institutions.
Cooperative Extension professionals of Langston University School of Agriculture & Applied Science, Oklahoma State University Extension and leaders of the College of Muscogee Nation received face-to-face dialogue training to impact their respective institutions and communities further. Coming Together for Racial Understanding (CTRU) is a dialogue-to-change process for communities seeking new pathways for working together across racial/ethnic lines.
The dialogue experience uses the “Facing Racism in a Diverse Nation” curriculum written by Everyday Democracy. The dialogue process fosters understanding and builds trusting relationships to take informed collective action for meaningful change. CTRU, seeded by the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP) in 2016, has the vision to grow a community of Extension professionals well prepared to foster meaningful community conversations around race, leading to positive change.
The foundation of the effort builds upon four essential principles:
- Cooperative Extension Service (CES) is positioned to help organize and facilitate these challenging conversations as trusted resources in some communities.
- CES must demonstrate in our practices what we seek for communities.
- CES must do our work around race before we can effectively engage communities.
- Dialogues are vital to understanding, and understanding is vital to healing and enduring change.
Diversity and inclusion in agriculture: The case of Missouri Latino farmers and ranchers
By Eleazar U. Gonzalez, Ph.D.
Since 2007, the U.S. Census of Agriculture has consistently documented a demographic shift in the U.S. agricultural sector. Although it creates a more diverse farming community that collectively contributes to reducing food insecurity across the U.S., the need to integrate and include non-white farmers and ranchers’ communities into the mainstream agriculture and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) support programs has increased.
Latino farmers represent the largest minority farming community in the U.S. and have consistently grown in number since 2007. However, while Latino farmers and ranchers increased in number, their access to USDA support programs remains low, and their application rejection rate to programs is also high.
The article discusses a demographic shift in the agricultural industry and challenges Latino farmers might overcome to increase their integration and involvement with USDA support programs for farmers and ranchers.
New initiative helps Black and underserved farmers thrive
In 1920, the number of Black farmers in the U.S. stood at about 1 million. Since then, the legacy of structural inequality, including exclusion from federal loan programs and laws that preyed on the economically disadvantaged, has slashed their numbers to fewer than 50,000 today, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) statistics.
To help Black farmers and farmers in underserved communities, Cooperative Extension at North Carolina A&T State University launched the Small Farm Leadership 360 Initiative. The program focuses on building bridges between small, underserved and underrepresented farmers in economically depressed counties and N.C. A&T’s agricultural expertise. Farmers learn about farm management best practices, tax advantages for small farmers, market opportunities, farm cooperatives and best practices in agricultural production.
The program includes four modules; the first was offered in February and the second took place June 8-10. Two additional modules will be offered this fall and winter.
“Agriculture serves everyone, and we believe it is important to work for diversity in agriculture,” said James D. Oliver, Ph.D., who leads N.C. A&T’s Small Farms Task Force with Fletcher Barber, Ph.D. “Our Black and underserved farmers often struggle because of a lack of opportunities. We offer them the skills and knowledge that will help them thrive.”
For more information, visit the Small Farms Leadership 360 website.
Coming together for racial understanding
In February 2020, 30 Texas Extension professionals from various disciplines and programs gathered to learn how to discuss race and race relations. A state team trained at a national Coming Together for Racial Understanding program, co-facilitated with curriculum creators, and organized the training Everyday Democracy. Since then, the group has worked to implement the original goal of facilitating conversations around race and racism, as the National Coming Together for Racial Understanding project intended.
Additionally, the group rose to address a specific request assigned by Texas Extension administrators in June 2020. From June 2020 to December 2020, the group met weekly for two hours. Extension programs must be inviting for people of all races. Extension values scientific information, so it is imperative that issues of race and racism within Extension are addressed based on scientific facts rather than longstanding traditions and misaligned customs.
By practicing diversity, equity and inclusion, Extension can justly show value for people, programs and partnerships. Further, given the complexities of educating all people, it is paramount to leverage diversity for increased impact and outreach to all people. Indeed, if Extension practices equity and diversity in program delivery, as well as within the workforce, there are chances for success in achieving the vision to provide science-based information and solutions in agriculture and health to everyone.
Southern University and LSU Ag Centers hold workshop on racial understanding
Cooperative Extension employees from the Southern University and Louisiana State University (LSU) Ag Centers recently participated in a two-day workshop themed Coming Together for Racial Understanding (CTRU).
The participants joined in open dialogue, active listening opportunities on inclusiveness and group exercises during the event.
“In this valuable work lies an opportunity to both learn from and educate others through civilized dialogue. These dialogues will break down barriers and construct positive change in mindsets and behaviors amongst diverse audiences,” said Dr. Tiffany Franklin, SU Ag Center facilitator. “These sessions provide knowledge and resources to assist with facilitating ‘hard’ conversations around the multi-faceted areas of diversity and inclusion. The knowledge gained will aid our field staff with more diverse Extension programming to everyone across the state. Together, we will expand our reach, one conversation at a time,” expressed Franklin.
Donovan L. Segura, SU Ag Center associate vice chancellor for equity, diversity, inclusion and Title IX, said these types of conversations are critically important to show that there is a general understanding of the issues we face within our communities.
“Race is not so comfortable for all to freely talk about. It’s a sticky conversation,” Segura said. “But we understand that institutional racism exists, and it affects many people. It actually affects generations.”
TSU awarded nearly $2 million in grant from National Institute of Food and Agriculture
By Alexis Clark
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced an award of $1.9 million to Tennessee State University’s (TSU) College of Agriculture and Cooperative Extension for a new 1890 Center of Excellence grant. This investment will help increase rural prosperity and economic sustainability of food systems in minority underserved farming communities. TSU is one of only two institutions to receive the grant this year.
Dean Dr. Chandra Reddy said the funding is a recognition of TSU’s capacity in environmental sciences and climate change solutions.
“Together with our 1890 partners, we will not only generate smart ways to manage climate change problems but also train a minority workforce in this all-important field. This Center of Excellence will strengthen our graduate programs and improve our research and Extension capabilities in the climate change field,” said Reddy.
TSU will collaborate with four other HBCUs to host the 1890 Center of Excellence for “Natural Resources, Renewable Energy, and the Environment (COE-NREE): A Climate Smart Approach.” Reddy will be the center's director, while Dr. De’Etra Young, associate dean for academics and land-grant programs, and Dr. William Sutton, associate professor of wildlife ecology, will serve as co-directors.
This will provide collaborative opportunities among 1890 institutions to develop management practices that will promote natural resources, explore renewable energy sources and develop climate smart agricultural production practices to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and improve environmental quality and sustainability, according to NIFA.
UAPB aquaculture, fisheries representatives foster diversity, inclusion at home and nationally
Representatives of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) Department of Aquaculture and Fisheries recently helped facilitate the first-ever session on diversity and inclusion at the annual Aquaculture America meeting in San Antonio, said Dr. Rebecca Lochmann, chair of the department at UAPB. Hosted by the U.S. Aquaculture Society (USAS), Aquaculture America is the nation’s only major national aquaculture conference and exposition.
“Demonstrated benefits of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in an organization include getting a variety of perspectives and increased engagement, creativity and decision-making, as well as an enhanced reputation of the organization,” Lochmann said. “USAS is assessing its efforts to be welcoming and inclusive of all people interested in this field.”
Christopher Kennedy, a UAPB graduate of fisheries biology who currently serves as assistant to the director of inclusion and diversity at the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), led the session at Aquaculture America.
“I would like to thank the U.S. Aquaculture Society for having the courage and collective desire to improve inclusion and diversity within the organization,” he said. “I considered it a great privilege to be asked to assist USAS and hope to have more opportunities to help them in the future. Hopefully, these efforts will ultimately provide students with more opportunities for career exploration, internships, professional development and work opportunities.”
VSU lays groundwork for diversity, equity and inclusion efforts through courageous conversations and programs
The last thing Erica Shambley, the assistant director of marketing and communications for Virginia State University (VSU)’s College of Agriculture, wanted was a band-aid, check-the-box effort for diversity.
An emerging partnership between VSU and Virginia Tech tapped Shambley, a self-identifying Black woman, to join at a time when people across the country protested George Floyd’s death and some residents of Richmond, Virginia, demanded the removal of local Confederate statues. Once she got involved, Shambley “found out not only was this extremely important and valuable, but I never thought we could have such open dialogue about diversity and coming together in the workplace the way that we do.”
The Coming Together for Racial Understanding (CTRU) program has a “vision to grow a community of Extension professionals well prepared to foster meaningful community conversations around race, leading to positive change.”
Shambley sees this work as critical to the mission of Extension at VSU. “We are strengthening our definition of community, which is our workplace. And our goal is if we’re comfortable identifying our differences internally, that will help us when we go out into the community.”
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.
Racial understanding program opens doors to dialogue
West Virginia State University (WVSU) Extension Agent Adam Hodges is helping to improve diversity and inclusivity by serving as a representative in the Coming Together for Racial Understanding program. The project is a dialogue-to-change process for communities seeking new pathways for working together across racial and ethnic lines that seeks to foster understanding and build trust in order to take informed collective action for meaningful change.
The Extension Committee on Operations and Policy (ECOP) has assigned a small team of Cooperative Extension Service (CES) and non-land-grant university professionals to participate in intensive training workshops to respond to the need for dialogue to promote racial understanding and healing.
“I am excited to be a part of the important work that has been happening through the Coming Together for Racial Understanding program,” Hodges said. “I feel energized to engage communities in these dialogues and proud that we can provide our residents a space to have real conversations about race and racism in West Virginia. Also, by building our own skills in facilitating these discussions, we will be better able to respond when our communities are facing other difficult topics in the future.”