Extension scholarships help farmers attend workshops and conferences
Posted on Feb 01, 2022
Members of the Southern Farmers Collaborative Group, U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service and Fort Valley State University faculty and staff recently attended the Farmers Train the Trainer Annual Conference in Sylvester, Georgia.
With help from Fort Valley State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), small farmers can now attend seminars focused on improving production and costs.
Some of these seminars include the Farmers Train-the-Trainer Conference, the Southeast Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference, and the Georgia Cattlemen’s Association Annual Conference.
Farmers attending these events received scholarships through FVSU funded by the USDA’s Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement (OPPE). This office develops and provides solutions for problems facing rural and underserved farmers and communities. This includes access to a variety educational resources and programs available through the USDA.
“FVSU Cooperative Extension Program’s ability to offer educational scholarships for opportunities like this were based upon recent funding secured by USDA’s Office of Partnership and Public Engagement,” said Joy-Moten Thomas, assistant Extension administrator for community development and outreach. “This affords us the opportunity to remove financial barriers that keep many farmers from participating in professional development trainings that are designed to benefit them. It’s opportunities like this when farmers are able to see firsthand how we leverage our land grant status by investing back into them,” Moten-Thomas said.
Thanks to a scholarship, Crawford County farmer Darlene Williams was able to attend the Southeast Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference in Savannah. She said she was following news reports on available opportunities benefitting farmers but was unclear of what they entailed. Attending the conference helped address her concerns.
“The conference was great. As a result of me attending I was able to earn my Produce Safety Alliance Certification and attend a half day of training dedicated to muscadine growers. I am thankful that Ms. Joy (Moten-Thomas) worked out an arrangement with the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association to provide opportunities for farmers like me to attend the conference without having to incur any out-of-pocket expenses. It was an honor for Fort Valley State to make this possible,” Williams said.
Additionally, the Crawford County farmer said she has never been able to receive the specialized training made available at the conference. She says having access to needed subject matter and its experts is a big help. “I love what I do, and I want to be the best I can be,” Williams said.
Furthermore, Williams said that being surrounded by fellow growers from other states allows for opportunities to open new doors and develop new relationships that are beneficial. “I would think that farmers who receive similar opportunities would do everything possible to absorb all of the available information,” she said.
Freddie Hagan Jr., a farmer from Statesboro, Georgia, also attended the Southeast Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference in Savannah with assistance from a scholarship. He said small farmers such as himself may not have the extra funds in their budgets to attend such events.
By attending the conference, Hagan said he had the chance to network with farmers of similar interests, talk to vendors and earn his Produce Safety Alliance Certification. “I may have not had the opportunity to do so without attending the conference,” Hagan said.
The Bulloch County farmer added that over the course of the conference, he acquired knowledge on several items that could be useful to his operation. “I gained valuable updated information that caused me to reevaluate some of the practices and procedures I have used in the past,” he said.
Another scholarship recipient is Alfred Greenlee, a farmer from Albany, Georgia and a member of the Southern Farmers Collaborative Group. With help from a scholarship, Greenlee will be able to attend the 60th annual convention of the Georgia Cattlemen’s Association in Savannah, Georgia February 15-16.
“It’s a real privilege to be able to receive a scholarship, especially for small farmers. Sometimes, we have challenges in getting into some of the conferences that they have. But to be able to have Fort Valley State University pay for small and disadvantaged farmers to attend such conferences speaks volumes. It gives us a chance to see the latest in technology, learn the latest in science and have some sort of understanding of marketing our animals. I’m just so thankful that assistance of this magnitude exists,” Greenlee said.
For more information about how FVSU’s Cooperative Extension Program is helping Georgia’s socially disadvantaged farmers, Contact Joy Moten-Thomas at (478) 825-6954 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- FVSU Agriculture College