by Dr. Shirley Hymon-Parker and Dr. Kathleen Liang

The largest classroom at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University isn’t just for faculty and students.

On June 15, we welcomed hundreds of farmers and other visitors to the 492-acre University Farm for the 16th-annual Small Farms Field Day, a showcase of the latest research in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.

Organized by The Cooperative Extension Program at N.C. A&T, Field Day helps growers increase food productivity, maximize income and promote environmental stewardship.

“Small Farms Field Day allows farmers to get a look at potential revenue generating enterprises and cost saving practices. This is important because many small farmers don’t have the resources to simply try something new without some reassurance that it will work.  This is just one way we support North Carolina’s small, limited resource farmers,” said Dr. Rosalind Dale, the Interim Administrator of The Cooperative Extension Program at N.C. A&T.

Through niche production and season extension, better marketing, and industry engagement and innovation, the College’s outreach always includes ways to grow a better crop and to make our food systems safe and functional, affordable for consumers and profitable for farmers.

This year, farm tours highlighted how insect screening and trellising can improve organic production in high tunnels. Experts offered insights on small-scale organic pecan production and high tunnel ginger production. Researchers spoke and answered questions about artificially inseminating cows and raising pigs in pastures.

“The Field Day brings farmers, extension agents, students and agricultural professionals from government agencies and growers’ associations and organizations to see applied research and demonstration projects that are designed to benefit small farmers in North Carolina.  Participants observe and learn from these projects and it is highly possible that they will apply recommended practices to their farm operation,” said Dr. Sanjun Gu, an Extension Specialist in Horticulture at N.C. A&T and one of the event’s main organizers.

Poster presentations shared knowledge about industrial hemp production, soil testing, injury prevention, pollinator protection, healthy food preparation and much more.

“The most exciting thing was seeing so many young people participating with their parents, friends, and relatives.  There were children who were curious and passionate about agriculture. These will be our future farming system leaders,” said Dr. Kathleen Liang, the W. K. Kellogg Distinguished Professor of Sustainable Agriculture and Director of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems at N.C. A&T.

As always, Field Day demonstrated the three-part focus of land-grant institutions: the integration of academics, research and outreach to better serve farmers and the public.

And as always, our top researchers and their students shared best practices to help growers achieve the best results.

Dr. Shirley Hymon-Parker is the Interim Dean and Research Director of the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at N.C. A&T. 

Dr. Kathleen Liang is the W. K. Kellogg Distinguished Professor of Sustainable Agriculture and Director of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems at N.C. A&T.