Conservation Expert at TSU Small Farm Expo Says US Running Low on Farmable Land; Highlights Critical Role of Small Farmers

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – A federal conservationist has warned that the United States is running out of farmable agriculture land to grow enough food for its growing population.

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Leonard Jordan

Leonard Jordan, associate chief for Conservation at the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, said the acreage of agriculture land in the U.S. has decreased by 30-35 million acres in the last 30 years while the nation’s population continues to grow.

“This is alarming.” Jordan said. “Anytime there is a growth in the number of people who rely on food and fiber for their survival, and there is less acreage to produce it on, that should be a concern.”

Jordan, a 1977 graduate of Tennessee State University with a B.S. degree in plant and soil science, was the keynote speaker July 21 at the 12th annual Small Farm Expo at TSU’s Agricultural Research and Education Center or “The Farm.”

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From left, Dr. Latin Lighari, associate dean for Cooperative Extension; Dr. Chandra Reddy, dean of CAHNS; and Tennessee Commissioner of Agriculture, Jai Templeton, far right, present Mike and Karen Minnis with the Farmer of the Year Award. (Photo by Courtney Buggs, TSU Media Relations)

The Expo also recognized the state’s top farmer with the Small Farmer of the Year Award. That honor went to the husband and wife team of Mike and Karen Minnis, crop farmers from Memphis, Tennessee. They were recognized for “Best Management Practices and Innovative Marketing.”

Jordan said with these “alarming statistics,” the nation is depending more on small farmers to fill the gap of growing enough crops for its people.

“Their role is very critical,” he said about small farmers. “The figures tell us that the things that they do in their operations are more important today than they have ever been. You (small farmers) should feel good about what you do each and every day. We owe you more than you ever know,” he said.

TSU President Glenda Glover agreed with Jordan, calling small farmers the “back bone” of America.

“It is very exciting to see this many people here today to celebrate our small farmers,” she said. “Our small farmers are the backbone of America, and it is very important that we take this time to recognize them. I applaud you (the small farmers) for the work that you do and continue to do to not only feed us but to encourage and prepare future farmers. I thank Dean (Chandra) Reddy and the College of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and all sponsors for your support in making this expo successful.”

Ashton Kirkpatrick, a seventh-grader from Northeast Middle School in Jackson, left; and Drayton Hawkins, an eleventh-grader from Haywood High School in Memphis, participate in a sustainable living exercise in the Urban Green mobile lab at the expo. (Photo by Emmanuel Freeman, TSU Media relations)

More than 400 agricultural experts, farmers and officials from across Tennessee and the U.S. Department of Agriculture attended the one-day expo. Busloads of middle and high school students from as far as Jackson and Memphis, Tennessee participated in the event.

The expo featured livestock shows, tractor pulls and tours, traditional agricultural displays and demonstrations, and mobile educational units, including a planting and harvesting simulator, and the Urban Green Lab on sustainable living.

Also on hand was Jai Templeton, who made his first appearance as the new commissioner of agriculture for Tennessee.

Dr. Chandra Reddy, dean of the College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences, thanked the award winners, small farmers, federal and state agency representatives, sponsors, guests and visitors for their participation.

“This annual Expo, now in its 12th year, is a way for Tennessee State University and our partners on the federal and state levels to recognize the role farmers and agriculture play in the state and the nation,” Reddy said. “We are grateful to Dr. Latif Lighari for his leadership of the Cooperative Extension Program, and his team for ensuring another successful Expo.”

Other farmers receiving awards were: Charles Jordan for “Most Improved Beginning Small Farmer”; and husband and wife team of Jim and Deanna Malooley, for “Best Management Practices.”

Department of Media Relations

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