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About the Center


The concept of a Center at AAMU devoted to studying small farms issues and their impact on the survival of these farms and ranches was first conceived in 2000 with funding from USDA's National Office of Outreach under Section 2501of the 1990 Farm Bill (a.k.a. Outreach Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers (OASDFR) Program). The 2501 project at AAMU received its first funding in 1994. The overall goal of AAMU’s OASDFR project at that time was narrow and restricted to the provision of technical assistance and training in record keeping, and delivery of production and marketing information to farmers and ranchers not reached by the traditional cooperative extension machinery or programs. The clientele in this category usually operate small-scale, family-owned or managed farms, often with limited resources. The project's service area included only twelve (12) counties in north Alabama.

As project staff and faculty grew in numbers and became diverse, and activities more complex and/or holistic in nature, the need for a Center devoted to small farms research, education and outreach became increasingly inevitable. Thus, the Small Farms Research Center was initiated in 2000 to provide services throughout Alabama, with special and particular emphasis on twenty-one (21) underserved counties in north Alabama. The Center is an integral part and sole outreach arm and vehicle of the College of Agricultural, Life and Natural Sciences (CALNS). It is housed in Room 219 of the James I. Dawson Cooperative Extension Building on AAMU campus. The Center caters and responds directly to the needs of small, limited resource, new and beginning farmers and ranchers, rural entrepreneurs, researchers, organizations, agribusiness management specialists, extension personnel, and consumers by providing research results, publications, outreach, and educational programs on small farms and business development topics. The Center is multi-faceted with increasingly diverse functions including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Serving as a clearinghouse for questions from small, limited resource, new and beginning farmers and ranchers, entrepreneurs, land owners, farm/agribusiness management specialists, extension personnel, government officials and agencies, and the academic community;

  • Conducting socio-economic research and evaluating issues and factors that might directly impact the profitability of limited resource farms and rural businesses, enhance economic development, and promote viability and overall sustainability of local communities;

  • Maintaining agricultural policy analysis capability in order to examine and analyze alternative policies and external factors for implications on Alabama’s production, utilization, farm and retail prices, farm income, trade, and government costs;

  • Determining effective risk management tools for crop and livestock producers in the state of Alabama, and analyzing how government policy affects risk management strategies;

  • Establishing and maintaining an online or web-based resource center for new and beginning farmers and ranchers and other minority and socially disadvantaged agricultural producers and rural entrepreneurs in Alabama’s underserved communities to facilitate overall training; development, implementation and advancement of producer programs; and for timely and effective dissemination of educational and resource materials to the target audience;

  • Developing and maintaining a farm incubator education and training program and strengthening its activities through field days, farmer-to-farmer training, on-farm demonstrations, mentoring, online or web-based training, and certification programs;

  • Publishing research findings, manuals, fact sheets, proceedings, pamphlets, leaflets, and a quarterly newsletter, News Update, that include news of upcoming events, publications, topical issues, and profiles of outstanding and exemplary small and beginning farmers and ranchers, rural entrepreneurs, extension personnel and key local community leaders;

  • Sponsoring, conducting, distributing, and promoting information about on-farm research, sustainable practices, and marketing strategies for small, limited resource, new and beginning farmers and ranchers, and rural businesses and agribusinesses;

  • Organizing farm-based events and learning opportunities that promote and educate local agricultural producers, rural entrepreneurs and community members;

  • Fostering a connection between area farmers, landowners, entrepreneurs and community members that establishes and promotes communication about local agricultural concerns;

  • Organizing and coordinating local, regional and statewide conferences, meetings, training workshops, and symposiums, and supporting extension personnel, farm management specialists, farmers markets and farm organizations in regional and local programs;

  • Providing opportunity for local limited resource, new and beginning farmers and ranchers, and rural entrepreneurs to socially, educationally and philosophically interact;

  • Providing and promoting educational opportunities that empower women and advance their interests and welfare regarding important issues affecting or surrounding agriculture;

  • Maintaining a viable and effective entrepreneurship education program to prepare people, particularly youth, to be responsible, enterprising individuals who become entrepreneurs or entrepreneurial thinkers by immersing them in real life learning experiences where they can take risks, manage the results, and learn from the outcomes;

  • Providing targeted and carefully tailored needs-based and hands-on practical training and experience to willing graduate and undergraduate students through internships, bi-weekly student employment, and graduate assistantships; and

  • Providing leadership and coordination for the USDA’s Outreach Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Program (OASDFR) Program, USDA’s Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Program (BFRDP), and other projects within the Center.



    For more information about the Center, please follow the links or call us at 1-866-858-4970 or at 1-256-372-4970. You may also reach us by email at smallfarmscenter@aamu.edu. The Center Director, Dr. Duncan M. Chembezi, may be contacted directly at duncan.chembezi@aamu.edu, and the Program Manager, Ms. E'licia L. Chaverest may be reached by email at elicia.chaverest@aamu.edu.​

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