Tag Archives: TSU College of Agriculture

TSU New Farmer Academy graduates prospective farmers from across the country

NASHVILLE, Tenn . (TSU News Service) – Individuals from across the nation looking to become farmers graduated from Tennessee State University’s New Farmer Academy on Sept. 16.

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, hemp production, soil fertility and suitability, and drone usage.

Finis Stribling, TSU area extension specialist and Academy coordinator, speaks to participants. (Photo by Michael McLendon, TSU Media Relations)

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, 38 graduated from the Middle Tennessee class, which finished this week. TSU President Glenda Glover was among the speakers who addressed the graduates on their final day.

One of the participants, Brian MacDonald, flew in each month from Orange County, California. 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. 

On the farm, he said he would set up a program for disadvantaged youth that would allow them to grow their own produce and possibly sell it, “basically teach them how to run a business, and how to sustain themselves in life.”

“When I was a kid, I was raised by a single mom for the most part,” recalled MacDonald, who is looking for farmland in Tennessee. “But there was a small portion of my life where I had an opportunity to have a horse for nine months. And I learned how to take care of it, and it taught me responsibility. I feel like, if I can have a program for kids where they can take care of plants, and to teach them the responsibility of doing that, it may give them a leg up.”

Graduate Daniel Harpstead traveled from Philadelphia to attend the Academy, and said he also plans to retire in Tennessee where he owns a 33-acre farm in Culleoka. Harpstead said he doesn’t yet know what he’s going to grow on the farm, but that the class has given him some ideas, and guidance.

“I’ve had an opportunity to learn a lot, and I plan to put it to good use,” he said.

John Ferrell, TSU extension agent for Franklin County, Tennessee, talks to participants about irrigation. (Photo by Lucas Johnson, TSU Media Relations)

Shannon Summer also said the class was very beneficial. The retired Army veteran has a farm in Williamson County and is planning to grow hemp on it.

“What I’ve received out of it (the class) is a broad spectrum, an overview of agriculture in different arenas,” she said.

Hemp research and production was one of the main topics of this year’s class. Finis Stribling, the Academy’s coordinator and a TSU area extension specialist, said some of the graduates have already started producing hemp, and others are curious. 

“It’s a niche crop that can be utilized for small scale farmers,” said Stribling. “A lot of farmers are growing an acre, half-acre, or quarter-acre just to gain some experience.”

Ashley Richmond of Chicago was another long distance traveler to the class. A Nashville native, she and her family have a 10-acre farm in Cross Plains, Tennessee. They use one acre for hemp. 

Richmond said one of the main reasons she’s interested in hemp is because some of the senior members of her family currently use it for medicinal purposes. 

“Just seeing some aging family members around me who have issues with pain,” she said. “So I thought it was a good idea to get into the industry myself. It provides help for people who are in my life.”

Another class topic that drew strong interest is the growing use of drones in agriculture. More farmers are beginning to use them to locate livestock, detect nutrient deficiencies in croplands, and inspect water lines.

TSU Ag Professor Dr. Thomas Broyles talks to Academy participants about the use of drones. (Photo by Lucas Johnson, TSU Media Relations)

“They’ll fly along those pipelines with the drones to see if any pipes have burst, so they don’t have to walk the fields,” said John Lee, a natural resource specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and one of the Academy’s guest speakers.

Stribling said the next class is scheduled for March 2020 and he currently has a waiting list of 15 people.

For more information about the New Farmer Academy and TSU’s College of Agriculture, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/agriculture/.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

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.

TSU hosts Small Farm Expo, National Women in Agriculture Association conference

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University highlighted the latest research in agriculture this week at its Small Farm Expo, and the National Women in Agriculture Association conference the institution hosted on its downtown campus.

The Expo, the 15th year of the event, was held Sept. 4 in the university’s Pavilion Agricultural Research and Education Center. The NWIAA conference was Sept. 5-6 on the Avon Williams Campus.

“Small Farmer of the Year” Daryl Leven, College of Ag Dean Dr. Chandra Reddy, and Jo Anne Waterman, extension agent for Shelby County. (Photo by Joan Kite, College of Agriculture)

TSU President Glenda Glover welcomed attendees to the Expo and stressed the importance of small farmers.

“This is special to TSU because we are a land grant institution, and we specialize in land grant activities,” said Glover. “Farming is major to us. We really appreciate small farmers.”

Dr. Chandra Reddy, dean of TSU’s College of Agriculture, echoed that sentiment.

“Small farmers are a majority of the state farming community,” said Reddy. “They are very innovative. They’re not so much interested in producing high quantities of products. They want to get quality in the niche markets, and profitability.”

The Expo featured speakers at the local, state and federal levels, and provided workshops on topics such as urban agriculture, use of drones in agriculture, and hemp research.

Tennessee Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Hatcher and State Sen. Frank Niceley were among the speakers. Hatcher said events like the Expo are beneficial to farmers in economically distressed counties.

“It’s tough right now for farmers,” said Hatcher, referring to the trade wars and flooding. “So this gives them hope for the innovation and technology that’s available to them. We have legislators, we have the governor’s office that’s onboard, we have universities like TSU, and others across the state, coming together to make things better.”

Sheldon Hightower, state conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Tennessee, said the Expo is an opportunity to “build partnerships” that last.

“What we’re trying to do is sustain agriculture for future generations,” said Hightower. “So it takes universities such as TSU to help us carry out that mission to sustain agriculture, to educate our youth about the importance of agriculture here in Tennessee.”

Reginald Holland of Clarksville, Tennessee, is a graduate student working on a degree in agriculture science at TSU. He attended the Expo and said it was “very beneficial.”

“This is a great function,” said Holland, who was among a number of students attending the event. “What we learn here, we can apply to the future workforce.”

One of the highlights of the Expo is the announcement of the “Small Farmer of the Year.” This year’s winner was Daryl Leven, owner of New Way Aquaponics Farms in Shelby County.

Farms, which opened in 2017 in the Annesdale-Snowden section of Memphis, grows vegetables and fish within a closed system using only 10 percent of the water used in conventional agriculture. The farm raises tilapia and grows lettuce, basil, stevia, and other herbal plants. The farm also hosts educational workshops for middle and high schoolers interested in learning about growing fish and food using aquaponics.

At the NWIAA conference, the focus was on opportunities for women in agriculture. The conference also featured speakers and workshops. One of the more popular, as was the case at the Expo, was discussion of hemp production.

Products made from hemp. (Photo by Joan Kite)

Bobbette Fagel traveled from Ruffin, North Carolina, to attend the conference. She has a little over 52 acres and is considering growing hemp.

“Hemp is fast growing,” said Fagel. “You can use it for the production of a lot of materials that traditional wood is used for.”

Tennessee State is among the nation’s leaders in hemp research. The university’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.

For more information about TSU’s College of Agriculture, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/agriculture/.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

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.

TSU New Farmer Academy highlights hemp production

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Prospective farmers from across the country learned about hemp production at Tennessee State University’s New Farmer Academy on Monday.

The Academy class, the only one of its kind in Tennessee, meets at the Pavilion Agricultural Research and Education Center (The Farm) near the main campus.

Finis Stribling, TSU area extension specialist and Academy coordinator, speaks to participants about hemp. (TSU Media Relations)

Participants come together the third Monday in each month over seven months and cover topics that include agricultural leadership and regulations, financial planning, hydroponics and irrigation, and organic production.

On Aug. 19, there was a special discussion about hemp, the new cash crop in Tennessee and abroad. According to recent licensing data, about 4,000 Tennessee farmers and businesses are licensed to grow hemp or cannabidiol (CBD). Collectively, that’s about 40,000 acres of hemp across the state.

Finis Stribling is the Academy’s coordinator and a TSU area extension specialist. He said some of the farmers in his class have already started producing hemp, and others are curious.

“It’s a niche crop that can be utilized for small scale farmers,” Stribling said. “A lot of farmers are growing an acre, half-acre, or quarter-acre just to gain some experience.”

Stribling said part of the discussion on Monday will involve economic data on hemp, such as, “how much money it would take to grow an acre of hemp.”

For instance, a license to grow a minimum of 1 to 5 acres of hemp costs $250.

Karla Kean is the TSU extension agent for horticulture and small farms in Montgomery County. She was one of the hemp presenters at the Academy class, which wraps up next month.

She urged those interested in growing hemp to learn as much as they can about it, and start with a small amount of acres if they haven’t farmed or gardened before.

Products made from hemp. (TSU College of Agriculture)

“Make sure you’ve done your research,” she said. “There’s a lot more to learn about it, more so than a commodity crop like soybeans or corn.”

Ashley Richmond of Chicago has been traveling to Nashville each month to attend the Academy. A Nashville native, she and her family have a 10-acre farm in Cross Plains, Tennessee. They use one acre for hemp.

Richmond said one of the main reasons she’s interested in hemp is because some of the senior members of her family currently use it for medicinal purposes.

“Just seeing some aging family members around me who have issues with pain,” she said. “So I thought it was a good idea to get into the industry myself. It provides help for people who are in my life.”

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.

For more information about TSU’s College of Agriculture, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/agriculture/.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

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.

TSU students benefit from Regions Bank and Cheekwood Partnership providing summer jobs

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – This summer Tennessee State University is providing paid internships for TSU students thanks to a partnership with Cheekwood Estate and Gardens and Regions Bank.

According to Dr. Chandra Reddy, dean of TSU’s College of Agriculture, these internships are part of the college’s initiative to increase its number of student internships with industry partners.

“This is a great investment by Regions Bank in our students,” said Reddy.  “We place a lot of importance on these internships.  Historically, we used to send a lot of students to the different governmental agencies. Now we are branching out to a lot of industry partners. This summer we have almost forty students across the country in different organizations and companies doing internships.”

Reddy said Regions Bank is providing $25,000 this year for student salaries. 

Daiva Wilson, a senior Agriculture major with a concentration in biotechnology who interned with Cheekwood last summer, said her experience at Cheekwood was eye-opening.

Daiva WIlson

“I’d never been to a botanical garden before, so just seeing the garden was a benefit,” said Wilson, who serves as an intern with USDA this summer.  “Also, I was able to see how the gardeners work with one another. They actually create such a beautiful display for members and people who visit the garden.”

Wilson’s internship at Cheekwood focused on horticulture.  She said she worked with the plant team and had the opportunity to experience the entire Cheekwood garden.  She credits Dr. De’Etra Young, assistant professor of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, with helping her secure the internship.

“The TSU College of Agriculture is really big on students presenting their goals. We have the Dean’s Scholars Program, and students with a 3.0 or higher are partnered with a mentor, which is usually a professor who does research in the lab,” she said. “Dr. Young pretty much says if you are a dean’s scholar, you should have an internship every summer.”

Young said the Cheekwood internships focus on three areas: education, horticulture and aboriculture.

“The role that I play is actually recruiting students and then internally vetting them before we send them over to Cheekwood, and then Cheekwood has their own application and interviewing process,” Young said. “For me, I believe that the experience for our students is hands-on experience that compliments what we are teaching in the classroom.”

Daniel Shaw, a senior Agribusiness major from Lamar, Arkansas, said he enjoys being a summer intern at Cheekwood.

“I am doing maintenance at the garden, like weeding, watering and planting.  Earlier on, we were transitioning from the spring annuals to the summer annuals, and we briefly started doing some plant identification for a daylily collection they have,” he said.

Shaw, who is also considering a career in environmental sciences and was introduced to the opportunity by Young, said he thinks the internship will give him leverage with future employers.

“It shows that you can be committed to something. Hopefully other people are going to be able to see your work ethic and put in a good word for you,” he said.

Shaw and fellow TSU student Jenna Jones, an education major at TSU, began their summer internships at Cheekwood in mid-May and will work through late July. 

TSU students Steve Osborne (left), an Agriculture Sciences major with concentration in Environmental Sciences and Davia Wilson(right), an Agriculture major with a concentration in Biotechnology, with Cheekwood Plant Collections Manager Shanna T. Jones (center) during their summer internship at Cheekwood in 2018.

Although the Cheekwood internship has existed since 2017, it has had multiple funders. This year Regions Bank is playing an instrumental role in the partnership. 

“Regions has longstanding relationships with both Tennessee State University and Cheekwood Botanical Gardens, said Senior VP and Regional Community Development and Partnerships Manager Latrisha Jemison with Regions Bank. “This is an ideal partnership that allows us to invest in a successful program with very talented students. TSU students complete the internship with workforce ready skills and go on to acquire employment in the horticultural profession.”

Reddy said TSU President Glenda Glover initiated the partnership.

“We have been sending out students as interns, and they have been paying the students for internships during the summer and during the regular semester for some time,” he said. “We are interested from an environmental perspective, with regards to botany and understanding the plants.  From their perspective, it is for beauty and environment.” 

He said faculty from the College of Agriculture have also played a role in the partnership.

“Our faculty have been trying to provide technical assistance on some basic things, like how to grow plants hydroponically, and how to take care of the ornamental plants,” he said.  “So there are student internships and faculty support for the public who come to Cheekwood Gardens.”

Peter Grimaldi, vice president of gardens and facilities at Cheekwood, said the internships provide students with an experience that includes a combination of direct service, working in the garden along with Cheekwood’s permanent professional staff, and project-based work.

“Public Horticulture includes the full spectrum of horticulture, and the opportunities at our operation pretty much include bits and pieces of almost any professional opportunity you can seek out in the green industry,” he said. “The interns have been very impressive, the students themselves, and if they are in anyway a representation of the young professionals that TSU is sending out into the workplace and the community, and they are, then that’s something the university should be proud of.”

Grimaldi said the botanical garden plans to have two additional internships this fall.

For more information about TSU’s College of Agriculture, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/agriculture/

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

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.