Alcorn’s fun-filled Agricultural Field Day – an inside look

Alcorn’s fun-filled Agricultural Field Day – an inside look

Approximately 200 participants from surrounding counties of Mississippi attended Alcorn’s annual Agricultural Research and Extension Field Day held recently on the Lorman campus. Agency personnel participants from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Farm Service Agency (FSA), Rural Housing and Development, and other federal officials were present.

“We were delighted to have Mr. Michael Sullivan, state executive director, USDA FSA, as the keynote speaker, to discuss several program areas and pertinent loan information for farmers,” said Dr. Igbokwe, director of the Alcorn State Experiment Station.

Additionally, Alcorn alumnus Timothy Bradford ’85, of Bradford Farms in Belzoni, Mississippi, addressed the audience. He shared the importance of being a farmer in Mississippi, and how success can be obtained by one of the most important areas in life, agriculture.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Improving the Quality of Life through Agriculture.” The speakers spoke on the importance of healthy eating habits, exercising and the nationwide drive in educating our youths on health issues and obesity, as the state of Mississippi is still ranked number one in the area of obesity.

Several research scientists held sessions in their fields of expertise: muscadine grapes, red pepper, basil, watermelons, shiitake mushrooms, and other vegetables, herbs and spices. Dr. Girish Panicker, director of the Center for Conservation Research and associate professor of agriculture, discussed horticultural crop production, and encouraged participants to begin farming or train other farmers and consumers to produce high quality vegetables and fruits through sustainable and economically feasible farming practices.

“The Alcorn Experiment Station, where different research activities are being used to provide needed answers to problems facing agricultural productivity and profitability within and outside the State of Mississippi, was one of the sites toured by the field day participants,” said Dr. Igbokwe. While at the station, participants were provided with a series of information on sustainable production of different small fruits, vegetables, and other specialty crops as they approached experimental plots.

The participants expressed an interest to see the 72 lines of watermelons, which are being evaluated for Trueness to Variety (TTV test). They were especially, amazed to see the “Bush Sugar Baby” line of watermelons where fruit weights ranged from 40 to 90 pounds. This study is one of the seed regulation programs conducted jointly by Alcorn’s Experiment Station and USDA. Mr. Kevin Robinson, USDA marketing specialist, represented USDA in this study.

A variety of value-added products, such as meat and fish seasoning, natural hot pepper sauce, pickled okra, muscadine wine, muscadine jelly, and tomato paste developed at the station were displayed and given away to participants. Dr. Igbokwe assured the participants that adding value to harvested crops means adding more dollars to their overall profits, in addition to enjoying harvested crops beyond the growing seasons.

“The Alcorn Experiment Station will continue to identify opportunities to enhance income potential and quality of life of limited-resource farmers and rural dwellers in Mississippi through basic and applied research efforts,” said Dr. Igbokwe. The participants also visited the Demonstration Farm where hogs, alpacas, and miniature horses were displayed.

“I truly enjoyed my visit and it was very informative. Dr. Cedric Sims’ presentation was spectacular, and I am now thoroughly educated by his workshop topic on basil,” said Mrs. Wille Jean Turner, of Fayette, Mississippi. Ms. Turner attended the sessions along with her husband Robert and nephew Arthur Clark. “We obtained a lot of valuable information from each session and were both excited and delighted to receive the muscadine grapes, hot sauce and other items that were given to us.”

During the luncheon, Dr. Barry Bequette, dean and director of land-grant programs, School of AREAS, and Dr. Donzell Lee, vice-provost, academic affairs and graduate studies, extended greetings. Dean Bequette also discussed future goals and objectives for the School of AREAS.

Dr. Igbokwe thanked everyone for being a part of the 2012 annual Agricultural, Research and Extension Field Day. He encouraged them to incorporate what they learned in their daily struggles to become more productive in their respective areas of interest. He also expressed his gratitude towards the Alcorn administrators and USDA for supporting agricultural research at Alcorn State. In closing, he extended special thanks to the keynote speakers for their valuable suggestions, encouragements and friendship, and he assured the participants that future field days will be even more knowledgeable and entertaining.