NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – More than 50 prospective farmers from across the country are participating in Tennessee State University’s New Farmer Academy
The seven-month program was started by the university’s College of Agriculture in 2014. Participants meet the third Monday in each month from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and cover topics that include agricultural leadership and regulations, financial planning, hydroponics and irrigation, organic production, farm equipment selection, soil fertility and suitability, and value-added agribusiness.
The Academy, which also offers classes in West and East Tennessee, is the only one of its kind in Tennessee. Its first year, the program had nine participants. This year, 52 are enrolled in the Middle Tennessee class, which will finish in September.
“Every year we’ve been growing and growing,” said Finis Stribling, TSU area extension specialist and coordinator of the New Farmer Academy. “There’s a lot of interest.”
Brian MacDonald traveled from Orange County, California, to attend this year’s Academy. After visiting Tennessee several years ago, he decided it is a place where he would like to retire, and do some organic farming.
“I have this dream of owning a farm,” said MacDonald, who is a retired president and chief financial officer for an electronics company. “It’s a dream I’ve had for the last couple of years.”
With the help of the Academy, MacDonald plans to make that dream a reality when he permanently moves to Tennessee, as early as next year.
Academy participant Ashley Brooks of Chicago is also hoping to start farming soon. She’s interested in growing hemp, and developing products from it, as well as using its oil for medical uses.
“Hemp has been proven to help with different conditions, like pain,” said Brooks, a TSU alum who grew up in Nashville, Tennessee. “I have aging family members who have used the oil, and they say it relieves their pain tremendously.”
Tennessee State is among the nation’s leaders in hemp research. TSU’s College of Agriculture has hosted several hemp workshops, and has charged a team of scientists to develop hemp production practices for Tennessee. The research projects include developing hemp nutritional products for human consumption and studying the economic viability of hemp production. Currently, the university is growing and evaluating 10 varieties of hemp.
“TSU wants to be at the forefront of this new interest that’s cropping up across the country,” said Dr. Chandra Reddy, dean of the College of Agriculture. “If it’s ever approved for large scale use, we have some knowledge about it and can work with the farmers.”
For more information about TSU’s College of Agriculture, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/agriculture/.
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Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees. TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee. With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.