Huntsville, Ala. – Alabama A&M University is among 40 institutions in 24 states to receive part of some $18 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ensure that beginning farmers and ranchers have the tools needed to run productive and sustainable farms.
AAMU’s $675,491 grant will help its Small Farms Research Center (SFRC) grow the next generation of farmers, ranchers and entrepreneurs, ultimately boosting both the sustainability and competitiveness of U.S. agriculture.
“AAMU is one of two 1890 land grant Institutions that has received an award from this program this year,” noted Dr. Duncan M. Chembezi, director of AAMU’s
(SFRC). “Although we are pleased for the award, we are very much aware of the work to be done to address the many critical issues and needs of our clientele.”
SFRC’s success, says Chembezi, owes much to a team led by E’licia Chaverest, program manager and marketing specialist. The Center is determined to continue to provide the best support to all producers, especially beginning farmers and ranchers, in Alabama, adds Chembezi. Through the SFRC, AAMU will lead and collaborate with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Tune Farm, Rosita’s Farm, Tri-State Rabbit Growers Association, and Alabama Agricultural A+ Marketing Association.
“Our project will establish a web-based resource center to facilitate the training and dissemination of educational materials to the target group,” says Chembezi.
“Beginning farmers, ranchers and rural entrepreneurs in Alabama, and throughout the U.S., face unique challenges and need educational training programs and technical assistance to enhance their profitability and long-term sustainability,” Chembezi says. “The training and education provided through this grant will help ensure the success of the next generation of farmers and ranchers in Alabama.”
The grants are awarded through USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture's (NIFA) Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). BFRDP is an education, training, technical assistance, and outreach program designed to help U.S. farmers and ranchers, specifically those who have been farming for 10 years or less. Transitioning farmers and ranchers also qualify for assistance under the BFRDP.
AAMU is one of only two historically black colleges and universities, the other being Kentucky State University, in the nation to be awarded this particular grant this year. AAMU also recently received a $300,000 grant to help improve the success of minority farmers and ranchers in Alabama from the USDA’s Outreach Assistance to Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers (OASDFR) Competitive Grants Program, also known as the “2501 program,” authorized under the 2008 Farm Bill. The OASDFR is administered by USDA’s Office of Advocacy and Outreach.
For additional information about the grants and AAMU Small Farm Research Center, call (256) 372-4958.
- Jerome Saintjones