James Barnes, Tootle, Deborah M., Coolman, Denise | 7/23/2005 1:20:18 AM
OAK GROVE – Solutions for many of the problems in West Carroll Parish are formulated by community leaders and residents who gather around a little yellow table in the back of an old country store here and discuss local issues.
Dr. James Barnes, director of the LSU AgCenter’s Rural Development Center, frequently joins in those discussions, and he says every community should have a yellow table where ideas can be hashed out.
"Places like this are where communication starts," said Barnes, who works out of the Thomas Jason Lingo Community Center in Oak Grove and also is an assistant professor in the LSU AgCenter’s Department of Agricultural Economics. "This is where people living in a community can discuss what changes need to take place to make their community better."
Finding ways to improve the economy of West Carroll Parish is just one of the many issues discussed by people sitting around the little yellow table in Oak Grove, officials said during meetings this week.
West Carroll Parish is in the Delta Region of Louisiana. This region – comprised of several parishes in Louisiana and counties in Arkansas and Mississippi – is deemed one of the poorest in the nation.
The LSU AgCenter is teaming up with other institutions in Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi to help improve the lives of people living in the Delta. And establishment of the Rural Development Center is just one of many steps in that effort.
"One of the questions we asked when we started this was how can we invest our resources to get the maximum impact," LSU AgCenter Chancellor Dr. Bill Richardson said during meetings here Thursday (July 21). "We realized that if we combined our resources with Arkansas and Mississippi, we could reach and help a greater number of people."
Dr. Frank Boteler from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service in Washington, D.C., also said people working together to reach a common goal is a main ingredient in the recipe for community success.
"We have a term we use for things that tie a community together," Boteler said. "And this term is ‘clusters.’ What does it take for a cluster to be successful? It takes people working together, just as you are doing here."
The LSU AgCenter is working in partnership with the Louisiana Community and Technical College System and the Northeast Educational Development Foundation (NEED) to offer college classes at the Rural Development Center beginning this fall.
During the meeting Thursday, Dr. Walter Bumphus, president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, praised the partnership between the institutions.
"I love partnerships," Bumphus said. "We’ve promised to help people living here, and now it’s time to get started doing something."
Dr. Paul Coreil, LSU AgCenter vice chancellor and director of Extension, foresees great things coming to the Delta Region.
"Bringing broadband Internet access to this region was a priority," Coreil said. "We now have a computer lab in the Rural Development Center that people can use. This is just the beginning of what will happen here."
Dr. Deborah Tootle of the LSU AgCenter’s Agricultural Economics Department agrees with Coreil.
"We have community economic development agents located all over the state to help in this type of endeavor," Tootle said. "The future looks bright as we work to continue to build community capacity for civic engagement and leadership, as we foster sustainable development through training in entrepreneurship, e-commerce and value-added development, and as we engage in more collaborative activities."
To help meet the future needs of communities in Louisiana, Barnes said the "three Ps" are needed.
"These are passion, purpose and persistence," he told Thursday’s gathering. "We have the passion to help. We know the purpose. And we must be persistent.
"If we combine these ‘three Ps,’ we can make lives better for people living here, and the discussions around that yellow table will be about how great these changes are."
To find out more about what the LSU AgCenter is doing to help improve the lives of people living in Louisiana, go to www.lsuagcenter.com.