Dr. Valmage T. Towner, Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith and Dr. Raygene Paige to headline Small Farmers Conference

Lorman, Miss. (March 17, 2014) – Dr. Valmadge T. Towner, president of Coahoma Community College and superintendent of the Agricultural High School, Coahoma, Mississippi, Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Cindy-Hyde Smith, and Dr. Raygene Paige, retired assistant director for Mississippi State University Extension Service, will serve as keynote speakers for the 23rd annual Small Farmers Conference slated for March 24-26, 2014, at the Jackson Convention Complex, Jackson, Mississippi.

Congressman Bennie Thompson and Senator Thad Cochran are invited guests at the convening of the conference. Towner will be the keynote luncheon speaker at noon on Monday, March 24. Paige will address the audience at the Cooperative Extension Centennial Banquet at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 25. Commissioner Hyde-Smith will serve as luncheon speaker at the closing session on Wednesday, March 26, at 12 noon.

A highlight of the conference will be the observance of the 100th Year Anniversary of the Cooperative Extension System. During the Cooperative Extension Centennial Banquet, the McDonald siblings – Georgia Wright, 99, Major McDonald, 98, Ozola Eichelberger, 95, and Mildred Bell, 94 – will be honored for their family’s rich farming legacy. The event will also honor the farmer of the year, woman in business and cooperative of the year.

Other highlights include a learning sites tour that will feature livestock husbandry, vegetable production and marketing, women in business, asset building and a conservation farm tour on Tuesday, March 25.

“The livestock husbandry learning site will primarily focus on the benefits of estrus synchronization and artificial insemination for small herds and herd health practices for meat goats and beef cattle,” explained Dr. Gregory Reed, conference chair, “Participants attending the vegetable production site will gain knowledge on beekeeping as an alternative enterprise, will be exposed to the basics of organic gardening and will learn how to market value added products at farmers markets. The women in business and asset building site will provide hands-on instructions for business plan development and creating wealth from small businesses. The final site is the conservation farm tour which will showcase new and innovative farm practices on local farms in Rankin County. Participants will increase their knowledge on high tunnel vegetable production and grazing systems for livestock which will be led by the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service.”

Dr. Valmage T. Towner became the 5th president of Coahoma Community College and the 9th superintendent of the Agricultural High School in 2013. Towner took the leadership of the college, having held numerous administrative and educational positions. Earlier in his career, Towner served as a mathematics teacher, ACT and algebra tutor, head baseball coach and assistant football coach at Coahoma Community College, and adjunct mathematics professor at Lemoyne-Owen College. Towner served Quitman County Schools as a principal and superintendent.

Dr. Raygene C. Paige retired from Mississippi State University in July 2000 where she served as assistant director for MSU Extension Service. She began her career as an Extension agent and became the first African-American district program leader, and later the first African-American state home economics program leader. During her nearly 40 years of service with the university she received many awards and recognitions including the Prestigious Epsilon Sigma Phi Ruby Award (the highest award given to an Extension employee by peers). Paige was the first African-American and the only Mississippian to receive this honor.

Mississippi voters elected Cindy Hyde-Smith Commissioner of Agricultur