AgCenter News for Fall 2018

Students learn about agriculture at field day in Winnsboro

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Agriculture experts told more than 200 middle and high school students about the importance of the industry at an LSU AgCenter event held Sept. 26 in Winnsboro. The youth learned about using drones in agriculture; forest and wildlife management; how sweet potatoes are grown, harvested and graded; and insects and pollination.

“We want our kids aware of where their food comes from and where their clothing comes from,” said Ashley Powell, the 4-H coordinator for the AgCenter Northeast Region. “Some kids go to the grocery store or a restaurant to buy their food and don’t realize where it comes from.”

She said presentations at the event also expose youth to education and career tracks they can pursue in agriculture, which is a major economic force in northeast Louisiana. Olivia McClure

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Leadership program director wins international award

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Bobby Soileau, director of the LSU AgCenter Agricultural Leadership Development Program, has been named recipient of the 2018 Outstanding International Leadership Program Director award by the International Association of Programs for Agricultural Leaders.

Soileau began working for Ag Leadership in 2005 and is currently leading his sixth class as the program leader.

Ag Leadership is a two-year program for individuals connected with the agriculture industry. The curriculum consists of a series of classroom and travel seminars that require approximately 45 training days. Since the program began in 1988, it has produced 419 graduates.

“Ag Leadership is successful because of the quality participants from all aspects of Louisiana agriculture. We strive to help class members become better informed spokespeople in all aspects of agriculture, forestry, natural resources and agribusiness,” Soileau said. Rick Bogren

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AgCenter receives $590,000 for beginning farmer program

The LSU AgCenter is launching an initiative to train small- and medium-scale farmers who are new to the business. The Grow Louisiana Beginning Farmer Training Program is funded by a nearly $590,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant. It will target those with 10 or fewer years of farming experience.

“This is a great opportunity to grow more farmers in Louisiana,” said AgCenter horticulture professor Carl Motsenbocker, who is the principal investigator for the project. “We need more Louisiana farmers in order to supply products into local and regional food systems. There is definitely an unmet demand for local horticulture products.”

AgCenter horticulture specialist Kiki Fontenot and agriculture economist Maria Bampasidou are co-principal investigators. Collaborators on the project include SPROUT NOLA, MarketUmbrella and the Acadiana Food Alliance.

The Grow Louisiana program will offer an intensive one-year training course to at least 12 farmers per year for three years. Classes in the first and third year will be in New Orleans, focusing on farmers there and on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. Farmers in southwest and central Louisiana can participate in the second year in Lafayette.

“The focus of the program is horticulture as well as business practices to ensure the long-term viability of the participants,” Motsenbocker said. Olivia McClure

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Nutritionist garners $5 million grant to improve rural health

The LSU AgCenter has been awarded a $5 million, five-year grant that will fund an ongoing program to improve health in rural Louisiana and expand it to more parishes.

The AgCenter was among institutions in 15 states that received High Obesity Program grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity. Depending on the availability of funds, the AgCenter is expected to receive $1 million per year until 2023.

The grant will support an initiative called Healthy Access, Behaviors and Communities, or Healthy ABCs, and will continue work that began in 2015 in Madison, Tensas and St. Helena parishes through the AgCenter Healthy Communities program, which was funded by a previous CDC grant. Assumption, Claiborne, East Carroll and Morehouse parishes will be added to the effort.

All seven parishes have an adult obesity rate of at least 40 percent, said Denise Holston, an AgCenter nutrition specialist and principal investigator for the project.

“Healthy ABCs will continue to leverage local cooperative extension services to expand the use of evidence-based strategies that increase access to healthier foods and safe and accessible places for physical activity,” she said. “Using a community-led approach, this work will help reduce the number of people with obesity and the effects of obesity in the targeted parishes.”

Holston said participants have persuaded local stores to stock more healthful items, established farmers markets, promoted physical activity at schools and community centers, and pushed for safety improvements to streets, among other accomplishments.

Partners include the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Southern University Ag Center, Louisiana Department of Health, Well-Ahead Louisiana, Center for Planning Excellence, Food Bank of Northeast Louisiana, Louisiana Department of Transportation, Louisiana Farm to School and Capital Area Planning Commission.

Olivia McClure

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Water regulations suspended in Louisiana and 27 other states

For the time being, a 2015 rule that regulates which waterways are subject to federal jurisdiction will not be enforced in Louisiana and 27 other states. Louisiana is covered by an injunction granted by a district court in Texas in September 2018 and will continue under rules set by the 1972 Clean Water Act until a new definition can be written.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers introduced a new rule in 2015 that changed the definition of waters of the U.S. — which bodies of water may be regulated by the federal government. That prompted concern among farmers and landowners, who feared they would come under stricter scrutiny for water and land use.

“It’s a problem for farmers because irrigation water is an important component for many to grow their crops, and they just want to get some clarity,” said Naveen Adusumilli, an LSU AgCenter economist.

“Many of the drainage ditches and small streams in the state don’t affect the major water bodies because they don’t normally flow unless there is major rainfall,” he said. “And many of those small bodies of water are either dry for the major part of the year or simply evaporate before reaching a major water body.” Rick Bogren

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Louisiana volunteer named to National 4-H Hall of Fame

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Fran Castille, of Amite, Louisiana, who has been involved with 4-H in some capacity since her childhood, was inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame in Chevy Chase, Maryland, on Oct. 19.

Castille’s first venture into 4-H was in 1964 when she joined a 4-H club in rural St. Helena Parish. She began showing Guernsey cows but later focused on leadership opportunities within the youth organization. By the time she graduated from high school, she had been elected to every officer position.

As an adult, she was asked to lead her niece’s local community club. Since that day, she has spent the past 32 years serving as volunteer leader and has been a positive role model for 4-H youth.

Castille is a charter member of the Louisiana 4-H Volunteer Leader Association and has served as president, vice-president and past president. She has raised more than $75,000 in donations and in-kind contributions for 4-H causes, such as scholarships, 4-H trainings and club grants for supplies and awards. Craig Gautreaux

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Entomologist teaches pollination using Minecraft gaming platform

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In real life, LSU entomologist Kristen Healy works to preserve pollinators in the environment, such as bees and butterflies, and now she is helping develop tools so students can do the same in a virtual world.

Healy teamed up with AgCenter information technology manager Andrew Garcia to develop a teaching module for building a pollinator garden in the education edition of the popular gaming platform Minecraft.

Healy developed the lesson plan, and Garcia built the virtual world, which includes a museum, characters that provide information and tools, and plots of land for the garden.

Healy said she wants students to understand the importance of pollinators and the ways to attract them and to appreciate the value of pollinator gardens. Any teacher with a Minecraft Education license can implement the lesson. The goal is for the students to navigate through the world while learning about pollinators, their habitat and how to protect them.

Healy and Garcia both have children who play Minecraft and said it’s a great way to engage students in the lessons. Many students don’t have access to real gardens, but this provides a virtual field trip for a class. View the lesson at Building a Pollinator Garden Minecraft. Tobie Blanchard

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11/28/2018 5:09:33 PM
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