Small Farm Expo showcases TSU’s nationally recognized research

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – More than 300 agricultural experts, farmers and officials attended Tennessee State University’s Small Farm Expo on Thursday.

Small Farmer of the Year recipient Nicole Riddle. (Photo by Emmanuel Freeman, TSU Media Relations)

In its 13th year, TSU officials say the expo at the Pavilion Agricultural Research and Education Center (The Farm) is a way for the university and its partners on the state and federal levels to recognize the role farmers and agriculture play in the state and the nation.

“We at TSU focus our work to support the small farms and this expo recognizes the outstanding farmers with innovative ideas,” said Dr. Chandra Reddy, dean of TSU’s College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences. “Also, participants get to see the best field research of TSU scientists and personally meet federal and state Ag leadership.”

Goats in TSU research program. (Photo by Emmanuel Freeman, TSU Media Relations)

The expo featured speakers and agricultural research tours with TSU faculty. Topics ranged from organic agriculture to cattle and goat research, all of which have been recognized nationally.

However, the highlight of the expo was the announcement of the Small Farmer of the Year, which went to Nicole Riddle of Maynardville, Tennessee. Riddle leased 44 acres of her parents’ land and opened her own winery in 2015.

“The Winery at Seven Springs Farm is the most successful new start rural winery in the state of Tennessee,” wrote Area Specialist Charles Morris. “In an unprecedented showing, her wines received five Concordance Gold Medals, including Best of Muscadine, and three Silver Medals at the 2015 Wines of the South Competition.”

Dr. Suresh Sureshwaran, director of the division of community education with the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, said TSU’s agricultural research over the years is impressive, particularly its goat research.

Earlier this year, TSU received a $496,328 federal grant to expand its research on goat meat production.

Dexter bull. (Photo by Emmanuel Freeman, TSU Media Relations)

“Goats are becoming an important new commodity for small farmers,” Sureshwaran said. “But many in the United States don’t know how to produce, or how to sell goat. I think more research is needed, and what Tennessee State is doing is extremely good.”

TSU also has a Dexter cattle-breeding program, the only one of its kind currently in U.S. higher education. The Dexter cattle are being used to assess the potential of small-breed cattle for small-scale beef production.

“We’re hoping people will see that there are alternatives to traditional livestock production,” said Dr. Richard Browning, who heads the Dexter and goat research. “The concept of having a small non-traditional breed like that is something they say might work on their farm. The same with the goats.”

Goat meat served at expo. (Photo by Courtney Buggs, TSU Media Relations)

Regardless of the type of research, TSU junior Kayla Sampson, an agriculture science major, said the expo is beneficial because students who attend are able to learn from invited experts and officials.

“It helps broaden our knowledge during the summer,” Sampson said. “So when the school year starts, we’re a step ahead.”

For more information about TSU’s College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences, visit


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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 38 undergraduate, 25 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