Funds focus on outreach and technical assistance to diversify American Agriculture
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University has received funding to help beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers, veteran farmers and ranchers build a more resilient agriculture system.
The University’s College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences received $188,055 recently from the U.S. Department of Agriculture as part of a $9.7 million grant to educate and provide technical assistance to agriculture businesses.
The grant, distributed through the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Grant Program, will help faculty and extension agents from the University encourage, educate and assist socially and financially disadvantaged farmers and producers to operate their farms more efficiently, and if able, purchase new farmland and become even more successful farmers and producers.
“We will specifically focus on socially disadvantaged farmers and land owners, and try to educate them on a variety of financial and technical help, and the opportunities available,” said Dr. Chandra Reddy, dean and director of Research and administrator of Extension in the College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences. “We want to make sure that they are on an even footing with large-farm owners when it comes to technical assistance and funding opportunities.”
The grant money, according to Dr. Arvazena Clardy, assistant professor of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, will be used to conduct workshops around the state, and educate farmers and producers on business development and expansion, small herd management, plant nutrition, and food safety and new farm technology among other topics.
The grant will also be used toward a future New Farmer Academy where new owners and potential owners of small acreages receive training on ways to best utilize their land for crops and livestock. The most recent five-month academy graduated nine candidates who learned about opportunities to expand into new areas of production, gain access to and knowledge about federal funds and programs, as well as develop new marketing strategies to make them more successful.
The goal, said Clardy, is to work with small and limited resource producers, farmers and landowners, and work individually with them on specific problems related to their farms and production.
“We are committed to improving the economic conditions of the socially disadvantaged farmers and landowners here in Tennessee,” said Clardy. “This grant will give us the opportunity to educate them about the accessibility of programs and new farm technology, as well as provide hands-on training, and one-on-one outreach and technical assistance.”
The grant was announced December 3 by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, who described the funding as part of “our ongoing commitment” to identify, recruit and train a vibrant next generation of farmers and ranchers who can carry American agriculture into the future. “It is also part of our pledge to assist military veterans find economic opportunity as they return to civilian life,” Vilsack added.
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With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 42 undergraduate, 24 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.