The Mound Bayou Community Learns, Explores and Engages at the annual Fall Vegetables Field Day
Clear skies and a winding, paved road welcomed local high school students, alumni, business leaders, legislators and friends to the Alcorn State University Extension/Research Farm and Technology Transfer Center’s 2017 Fall Vegetables Field Day, held September 21 in historic Mound Bayou, Mississippi.
The event began with a welcome and greetings from Interim Farm Manager John Coleman, who presided over the event. Afterwards, Eula L. Peterson, mayor of the city of Mound Bayou, addressed the audience on the rich history of the town, the purpose of Extension and the importance of the event.
Rep. Abe Hudson, 29th District, piqued the interests of all in attendance as he took the platform. He touted the need for a targeted collaboration between Alcorn State University’s Department of Agriculture and Applied Sciences and the local middle and high schools, to cultivate students for careers in agriculture.
According to Dr. Franklin Chukwuma, interim assistant director of Extension, Rep. Hudson’s thrust is in line with the vision that he and other administrators in the School of Agriculture and Applied Sciences have charted.
“We have programs and initiatives in place, but there is a need, and a desire, to strengthen those to a larger capacity,” Chukwuma said.
Preston Billings from the Bolivar County Board of Supervisors, District 3, highlighted the global relevance of the event.
“Agriculture is something that we all have in common – we have to eat,” Billings said.
Billings received a giggle from the young women of various high schools in the audience when he encouraged them toward careers in agriculture and applied sciences with the phrase, “make your own money, honey.”
Sen. Willie Simmons of the 13th District, brought greetings from the Mississippi State Capitol.
“Back some 20 years ago we were able to convince the state legislature to invest $250,000 into this project. We thought it was important that Alcorn have a presence in the Mississippi Delta and we’re proud that they chose Mound Bayou, which was founded by I.T Montgomery, who focused heavily on agriculture,” Simmons said.
Simmons spoke about the importance of access to produce in the Mississippi Delta, a place that is often dubbed as a “desert” for healthy, fresh food. He praised the School of Agriculture and Applied Sciences for its work in the community and spoke with high hopes for the Center as well as its other Research and Extension endeavors. As the proprietor of Senator’s Place, an eatery in Cleveland, Mississippi, he is excited about the possibility of locally grown produce.
“I own a restaurant in Cleveland, and there are many other restaurants and establishments in the region who have a need for fresh produce,” he said. “I hope someday, as a result of what Alcorn is doing here and the training that they are providing to small farmers in the community, that we will walk into our local establishments and order from a menu with a sign and seal that reads ‘locally grown’ produce.” The crowd erupted into applause at Simmons’ ambition.
Jerome Myles, gospel music director, of the campus radio station WPRL 91.7 FM “The Gold” streamed the event live. Prizes and raffles were given throughout the festivities. Afterwards, attendees were divided into groups, which rotated through various tour sites.
Underneath a canopy, tables were established by agencies such as the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and various other entities, including those of the Alcorn State School of Agriculture and Applied Sciences. Participants had the opportunity to speak with representatives as well as network with their peers.
A passenger trailer, pulled by a large blue tractor, took participants around to various sites of the Demonstration Center for field tours. They saw and learned about wind tunnels or “hoop houses” for extended growing seasons as well as ethanol production from grasses.
Others stayed behind to hear from a variety of speakers on topics such as landownership and family heir disputes, marketing of produce and commercial distribution. Pamphlets and information on how to become involved with the programs were distributed.
Afterwards, a nutritious barbeque lunch was served.
As buses and cars began to file away from the Extension/Research Farm and Technology Transfer Center at the end of the event, a renewed sense of possibility was felt. Students, community attendees and alumni expressed their desire to attend the next event and to apply the knowledge and resources gathered throughout the day.
“This event was a great success and was well attended. We are proud that growers and members of the community left with ideas on how to start, or enhance, their operations,” Chukwuma said. “We are also excited about the amount of youth participation we received. Many youth don’t know or understand where their food comes from. Our future is with them and educating them is our only solution.”
For more information on the Fall Vegetables Field Day, contact Chukwuma at 662.741.3375, 601.877.2312 or [email protected]. For more information on the School of Agriculture and Applied Sciences, visit www.alcorn.edu/landgrant.