PAWC activities focused on women and youth in agriculture


TUSKEGEE, Ala. (December 11, 2013) — The 71st Professional Agricultural Workers Conference highlighted the role of women and youth in agriculture this week. The event was held Sunday through Tuesday in the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center at Tuskegee University and attracted agricultural professionals from across the country.

Dr. Walter Hill, Provost and Dean of the College
of Agriculture, Environment and Nutrition
Sciences stands with two winners. 
It featured a series of keynote speakers and panels, academic paper and workshop presentations as well as food product tastings. Much of the information and the activities were either female or youth-centric. 

The conference kicked off Sunday with the 10th Gamma Sigma Delta-PAWC Student Competition. The research presentation competition drew students from institutions around the country. Two Tuskegee students claimed top honors. Desire Richardson won first place in the undergraduate oral presentation and earned a $500 prize. Rebecca Gyawn won second place in the graduate poster presentation and earned $200. 

Monday, Tuskegee’s Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANNRS) chapter held its 19th Annual Student Recognition Banquet honoring members and officers. Dewayne L. Goldman, director of stakeholder relations at Monsanto was the guest speaker.

“A significant part of the population is needed to maintain a safe and abundant food supply,” Goldman said. “The demand for agriculture graduates is at an all-time high. It provides an excellent opportunity.”

An early, hands-on start

High school students, who were part of the Tomorrow’s Agricultural Professional Symposium (TAPS), got information to help prepare them for college and the workforce. Throughout the conference, the students got information about possible agriculture careers. On Tuesday, they got an up-close look at some of their options during a trip to the university’s farm and experiment station. 

The trip included activities related to animal science, composting, engineering, hoop houses, and vermiculture. The session on vermiculture was an opportunity for the students to get their hands dirty and find out how worms help in soil composting. Students from Tuskegee’s Future Farmers and Agricultural Specialists of America group showed the TAPS participants several soil composting bins filled with red wiggler worms. They explained that the bins are regularly filled with a variety of organic materials such as old vegetables and newspaper, which the worms ingest. In turn, the worm excrement helps to enrich the soil.

“It’s healthier, ” said Matthew Robinson, a senior plant and soil science major from Nashville. “It raises the pH in the soil, which makes it better for growing. It also allows it to breathe more.”

One of the high school students, Robert Johnson, said he is more interested in architecture than agriculture. But, the tiny red wiggler worm moving over his fingers fascinated him. 

“This is fun because it’s hands-on,” said the senior at Booker T. Washington High School in the City of Tuskegee.

Food justice for all

The conference concluded Tuesday evening with the George Washington Carver Public Service Hall of Fame Awards Banquet and Lecture. The keynote speaker was LaDonna Redmond, a food justice activist who was named a Responsibility Pioneer in 2009 by Time Magazine. Redmond became interested in improving urban communities’ access to healthy food after her son was diagnosed with a number of food allergies. 

“I could get all kinds of narcotics, an automatic weapon, but I could not get an organic tomato,” Redmond said about the community near her home in Chicago. 

Redmond eventually started a community garden program that turned vacant lots into urban farms. 

“We were trying to bring the best variety of food to the neighborhood that we could,” Redmond said. 

Redmond went on to say that the PAWC was an important conference because it was inclusive of all, regardless of race or gender. 

“You are telling the story in a way that includes us,” Redmond said.

Women celebrated

During the night, three women were honored for their contributions to agriculture and community service including Georgia Good. She is the first recipient of Tuskegee’s N. Juanita Coleman-Ruth Clement Bond Award. 

Good helped found Orangeburg's Family Health Centers Inc., a health clinic for poor families that annually generates more than $30 million. She has also served as director of the South Carolina Cooperative Development Fund, director of the Area Development Center in Orangeburg County, and led the National Sharecroppers Fund, one of the oldest farm groups that serve minority and other small farmers in the rural Carolinas.

Tuskegee University Acting President Dr. Matthew Jenkins helped induct Carolyn Brooks and Geraldine Herring into the George Washington Carver Public Service Hall of Fame. Brooks, is the executive director for ARD at University of Maryland- Eastern Shore and works with land-grant advocacy firms and government agencies to maintain or enhance funding for 1890 land-grant college campuses and/or programs. She has written more than $4.6 million in grants.

Herring, works in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights for the United States Department of Agriculture. For more than 40 years, she has provided leadership and coordination to establish and implement the agency’s mission objectives. She also works in the interest of socially disadvantaged and limited resource farmers. 

© 2013 Tuskegee University

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