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USDA National Organic Program (NOP) visited CAENS Organic Farm

Tuskegee University leads the Southeast Organic Consortium, which provides organic farmers with research information and promote and strengthen organic farming infrastructure. Now TU is partnering with the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) to deploy a systems framework for classroom and field-based organic agriculture education as part of the NOP’s Human Capital Development Initiative. In furtherance of this new initiative, the NOP’s Deputy Administrator, Dr. Jennifer Tucker and Program Analyst, Ms. Laura Gallagher, made a site visit to Tuskegee University from June 14-June 16 to observe and receive updates on the University’s organic development project housed in the College of Agriculture, Environment and Nutrition Sciences. In addition to visits to the University’s certified organic farm, the NOP officials visited the SHE grows farm and Blueberry Patch both of which are local farms that receive technical support from the TU organic project team. Ms. Joan Morbidelli and Ms. Josie Gbadamosi, led farm tours of their respective farms during which they shared some of their experiences with students, organic project team, and NOP officials. Dr. Tucker and Ms. Gallagher informed both farmers about USDA resources that may be available to them. Ms. Gbadamosi’s Blueberry patch offers several varieties of blueberries to residents of Tuskegee and beyond through a U-pick operation. Ms. Joan Morbidelli’s farm grows a wide variety of vegetables including tomatoes, cabbages, okra, peppers, sweet potatoes, watermelons, cucumbers, lettuce, carrots, and blueberries.

Dr. Jennifer Tucker and Ms. Laura Gallagher of the USDA NOP Program visited TU Organic Farm and the high school students

The NOP team interacted with student’s engaged in TU’s NOP-funded summer experiential program in organic farming during the farm visits and later in Henderson Hall. Dr. Tucker and Ms. Gallagher fielded questions from the students and provided information on career opportunities in the USDA as well as their own career journeys. A debriefing session involving the organic project team (Drs. Kokoasse Kpomblekou, Desmond Mortley, Youssouf Diabate, Adelia Bovell-Benjamin, and Franklin Quarcoo) concluded the site visit.

According to Project Director, Dr. Franklin Quarcoo, “The visit was an immense success, and the NOP was pleased with all the wonderful work being done at TU.” Dr. Quarcoo wants to thank the CAENS college administrators, Mr. Gregory Kelley, Mr. Joe Sparks, and others involved in making both the project and visit, successes.

Dr. Kokasse Kpomblekou shows Ms. Gallagher plants at the TU farm

President Charlotte Morris and the Board of Trustees also visited the University’s certified Organic farm. Dr. Morris and the board members toured the farm, interacted with organic research faculty as well as a combined team of TU and high school students currently engaged in a summer experiential training in organic farming. The president and board members later joined students in picking organic blueberries while they engaged the organic research scientists in discussions pertaining to the development of the organic program at TU.

High School summer students

The visit by President Morris and the board of trustees was the ideal way to kick-off the CAENS Summer 2022 organic produce sale. Eight varieties of blueberries, zucchini, and squash (Gentry and butternut) are available for sale to the University community at Henderson Hall on Fridays. Other organic produce such as carrots, tomatoes, sweet peppers, broccoli, Kale, and peas will become available as the season progresses. The sale of organic vegetables on campus and at the local Farmer’s markets serves as experiential training of students on the marketing aspects of organic farming.