Raising the future is goal of Morehouse Farm Field Day

(07/28/23) BASTROP, La. — The annual Morehouse Parish Farm Field Day continues to be a great place for young people who have limited knowledge of the industry to learn about careers in agriculture.

With the average age of American farmers nearing 60 years old, succession planning is high on the minds of many northeast Louisiana farmers.

Southern University extension agent Odis Hill, who is the field day coordinator, said this event is just one way to remind people that there are still African American farmers around.

“This field day provides the latest information on equipment, technology, seed and chemicals to these growers and those interested in the industry,” he said.

Each July, Black farm producers from throughout the southeastern U.S. converge on a Morehouse Parish farm for their annual field day.

Hill said the field day began in 2002 and is always held on the farm of one of the Morehouse Black Farmers and Landowners Association members.

“This field day also is a way for young people to learn that farming is not just a lot of hard work in the field,” he said. “It’s true, there is hard work involved, but farming is just one of the careers available in agriculture.”

Gina E. Eubanks, associate vice president of the LSU AgCenter, said Southern University provides the leadership for this field day to get information to growers who otherwise may not receive it.

“As a farmer, it is important to meet and share best practices,” she said. “There are other races of farmers in the parish, but based on a need, this field day focuses primarily on Black farmers.”

Even though the overarching goal of the event is to get needed information to producers who have historically been discriminated against, it provides an educational moment for the public as well.

Section 22007 of the Inflation Reduction Act was a hot topic on the agenda, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture will be helping farmers who have experienced discrimination.

Bruce Harrell, Louisiana state coordinator for the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, was among several speakers on the program with information of interest to Black farmers.

Harrell discussed Section 22007, which provides $2.2 billion in financial assistance for farmers, ranchers and forest landowners who experienced discrimination in USDA’s farm lending programs prior to Jan. 1, 2021.

“This is not a lawsuit. This is a program that you can apply for to get assistance if you’ve been discriminated against,” he said. “We at the federation are here to offer free assistance to help you fill out the application, which is 40 pages long.”

Marilyn Taylor, Bastrop High School principal, and Katie Henderson, Morehouse Parish elementary curriculum supervisor, both discussed the importance of youth learning about agriculture and highlighted internship programs that are available in the parish.

The administrators had praise for the Jobs for American Graduates (JAG) program, which helps students overcome the odds by staying in school and graduating.

Taylor said JAG is a bridge that assists students in finding what they want to do with their future.

“It’s important for us to partner with people like you because many of our kids are kinesthetic learners, and they need those hands-on experiences,” she said.

For more than 20 years, members of the Morehouse Parish Black Farmers and Landowners Association and the National Black Growers Council have sponsored the field day to inform young people about careers in agriculture while also providing research-based information to landowners and growers.

After opening the program with a slate of speakers, the attendees boarded wagons for stops in corn and soybean fields on the Antwain Downs Farm east of Bastrop.

During the stops, AgCenter soybean specialist David Moseley and plant pathologist Trey Price, joined by seed and chemical company representatives, discussed the crop situation and the performance of different varieties.

Moseley discussed some of the disease problems in soybeans and how trying a different variety may be helpful.

“Last year I got to know Mr. Downs at the field day, and he called me out to look at his beans. He thought he had stem borer,” Moseley said. “He did have stem borer. But the real problem was nematodes. So, he now has a nematode-resistant variety, and we’ll look at the yields at harvest.”

Price gave an update on the corn crop. He is optimistic despite some setbacks from cold weather early in the season.

“We’re already seeing some corn being harvested in St. Landry Parish and in several other areas of the state,” he said.

The annual Morehouse Parish Farm Field Day is sponsored by the Southern University Ag Center, the LSU AgCenter, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Morehouse Parish Black Farmers and Landowners Association and the National Black Growers Council.

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Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture Mike Strain shares a light moment with Kimberly Jo Wilson, an Atlanta educator, and Charles Guidry, an Erath sugarcane farmer, during the Morehouse Parish Farm Field Day in Bastrop on July 21. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

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LSU AgCenter plant pathologist Trey Price gives an update on this year’s corn crop during the Morehouse Parish Farm Field Day in Bastrop on July 21. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

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Morehouse Parish farmer Antwain Downs was the host of this year’s Morehouse Parish Farm Field Day in Bastrop. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

7/28/2023 8:52:38 PM
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