NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University highlighted the latest research in agriculture this week at its Small Farm Expo, and the National Women in Agriculture Association conference the institution hosted on its downtown campus.
The Expo, the 15th year of the event, was held Sept. 4 in the university’s Pavilion Agricultural Research and Education Center. The NWIAA conference was Sept. 5-6 on the Avon Williams Campus.
TSU President Glenda Glover welcomed attendees to the Expo and stressed the importance of small farmers.
“This is special to TSU because we are a land grant institution, and we specialize in land grant activities,” said Glover. “Farming is major to us. We really appreciate small farmers.”
Dr. Chandra Reddy, dean of TSU’s College of Agriculture, echoed that sentiment.
“Small farmers are a majority of the state farming community,” said Reddy. “They are very innovative. They’re not so much interested in producing high quantities of products. They want to get quality in the niche markets, and profitability
The Expo featured speakers at the local, state and federal level, and provided workshops on topics such as urban agriculture, use of drones in agriculture, and hemp research.
Tennessee Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Hatcher and State Sen. Frank Niceley were among the speakers. Hatcher said events like the Expo are beneficial to farmers in economically distressed counties.
“It’s tough right now for farmers,” said Hatcher, referring to the trade wars and flooding. “So this gives them hope for the innovation and technology that’s available to them. We have legislators, we have the governor’s office that’s onboard, we have universities like TSU, and others across the state, coming together to make things better.”
Sheldon Hightower, state conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Tennessee, said the Expo is an opportunity to “build partnerships” that last.
“What we’re trying to do is sustain agriculture for future generations,” said Hightower. “So it takes universities such as TSU to help us carry out that mission to sustain agriculture, to educate our youth about the importance of agriculture here in Tennessee.”
Reginald Holland of Clarksville, Tennessee, is a graduate student working on a degree in agriculture science at TSU. He attended the Expo and said it was “very beneficial.”
“This is a great function,” said Holland, who was among a number of students attending the event. “What we learn here, we can apply to the future workforce.”
One of the highlights of the Expo is the announcement of the “Small Farmer of the Year.” This year’s winner was Daryl Leven, owner of New Way Aquaponics Farms in Shelby County.
Farms, which opened in 2017 in the Annesdale-Snowden section of Memphis, grows vegetables and fish within a closed system using only 10 percent of the water used in conventional agriculture. The farm raises tilapia and grows lettuce, basil, stevia, and other herbal plants. The farm also hosts educational workshops for middle and high schoolers interested in learning about growing fish and food using aquaponics.
At the NWIAA conference, the focus was on opportunities for women in agriculture. The conference also featured speakers and workshops. One of the more popular, as was the case at the Expo, was discussion of hemp production.
Bobbette Fagel traveled from Ruffin, North Carolina, to attend the conference. She has a little over 52 acres and is considering growing hemp.
“Hemp is fast growing,” said Fagel. “You can use it for the production of a lot of materials that traditional wood is used for.”
Tennessee State is among the nation’s leaders in hemp research. The university’s College of Agriculture has hosted several hemp workshops, and has charged a team of scientists to develop hemp production practices for Tennessee. The research projects include developing hemp nutritional products for human consumption and studying the economic viability of hemp production. Currently, the university is growing and evaluating 10 varieties of hemp.
For more information about TSU’s College of Agriculture, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/agriculture/.
Department of Media Relations
Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209