Holding fast to enduring principles and excelling through excellence in an uncommon way was the focus of Tuskegee University’s recent 128th Annual Farmers Conference. Programming centered around “Solving Common Problems in Uncommon Ways: Sustainable Innovation for the People” placed attention on problems and solutions for small-scale farmers, landowners and their communities through managing change in agriculture in unique ways.
Conference participants engaged in intensive courses of instruction, problem-solving and interactive demonstrations. Additionally, the conference allowed small-scale farmers to network with colleagues, university educators and subject-matter experts.
Conference liaison William Hodges said the annual event provides farmers a way of engaging in an educationally stimulating environment.
“We want the community to not only be engaged, but events like this arouse public sentiment and create an interest in the common, mundane and practical affairs of life,” he explained.
This year’s conference sought to grab the attention of the next generation of farmers through its eXert Competitions. The annual competitions’ purpose is to engage youth in opportunities that emphasize the ever-changing agricultural environment. Competition categories included the culinary arts (apple preserves and quesadillas cook-off), entrepreneurship (business pitch), agriculture (farm planning), architecture (building recyclable and sustainable chairs), and a scholar bowl competition.
In addition, the conference recognized several individuals for their accomplishments in the agricultural field. This included Gerald and Glenda Gooden of Triple G Goat and Beef Ranch in Opelika, Alabama, recipients of the Merit Farmer of the Year Award; Dr. Ralph C. Noble, a former Tuskegee University professor and current dean of the College of Agriculture, Family Science and Technology at Fort Valley State University, who received the Thomas Monroe Campbell Award (named in honor of Campbell, who pioneered agricultural extension in the U.S. during the early 1900s while at Tuskegee); and County Extension Specialist Gertrude Wall, who received the Tuskegee University Cooperative Extension Program’s 2020 Lifetime Service Award.
The College of Agriculture, Environment and Nutrition Sciences received corporate support from Diamond Club sponsor Alabama Ag Credit and Bronze Club sponsor First South Farm Credit. Other sponsors included the National Institute for Food and Agriculture; USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service; USDA Alabama Association of RC&D Councils Inc. Rural Business-Cooperative Service; USDA (through the Rural Energy Program) Farm Service Agency; USDA Small Farm Technical Assistance and Outreach Program; Tuskegee University Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program; and Tuskegee University.
The event was presented in partnership with the Farmers’ Conference; Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries; USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service; Alabama Cooperative Extension System; Alabama Department of Environmental Management; Alabama Farmers Federation; Alabama Farmers Market Authority; Alabama Forestry Commission; USDA Farm Service Agency; USDA Federation of Southern Cooperatives Forest Service; and Southern Rural Development Council.
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