Nov 15, 2022
Tuskegee University to use $2 million in grants to advance organic agriculture

Tuskegee University will use a $1 million award from the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research to create an endowment advancing organic agriculture and farming practices through the school’s College of Agriculture, Environment and Nutrition Sciences.

The award matches a $1 million investment by Clif Bar & Co. and will fund future opportunities and activities that increase the adoption of organic farming practices in the Southeast and increase equity in organic farming.

A 2022 Forbes article outlined significant funding disparities at the nation’s Black land-grant universities compared to their predominantly white counterparts over the last three decades. Furthermore, the latest U.S. Census of Agriculture indicates that of the 30,909 certified organic farms in the U.S., only 5% are Black-owned.

“Investing in an organic and equitable future for U.S. farming and agriculture is imperative to advancing our food systems and ensuring broader access to organic food for all,” said Joe K. Kpomblekou-A, research professor of plant and soil science at Tuskegee University. “We are grateful to Clif Bar for their industry leadership and commitment to organic research and education, which will ultimately benefit not just Tuskegee University but inspire more Black leaders in organic farming.”

The award will support Kpomblekou-A and fellow plant and soil science professor and researcher Franklin Quarcoo in developing a network of organic research among Southeast academic institutions with a focus on historically Black colleges and universities.

“Organic farming research can assist producers in implementing sustainable soil health management practices, increase resilience to climate change and strengthen our food systems,” said LaKisha Odom, FFAR scientific program director and Tuskegee alumna. “FFAR is proud to partner with Clif Bar to maximize investment in the advancement of organic agriculture and support equity in farming through this endowment to Tuskegee University.”

Founded in 1881 by Booker T. Washington, Tuskegee has a long history of innovation in agriculture, including the contributions of George Washington Carver, who worked at the university most of his adult life. Carver is known for his work on soil chemistry and crop rotation and his commitment to Southern Black farmers.

Today, the university has a center for plant biotechnology research which is training scientists from around the world and has one of the first centers funded by NASA to develop technology for growing food in space.

Clif Bar, founded 30 years ago, has purchased more than 1.4 billion tons of organic ingredients since 2003.

“At Clif, our purpose is to redesign the business of food for the benefit of health, equity and Earth, and supporting Tuskegee’s work to make organic more accessible and equitable is a meaningful way to deliver on that promise,” said Roma McCaig, senior vice president of Impact & Communications at Clif Bar & Co. “We are committed to diversity, equity and inclusion and are proud to support Tuskegee’s work that will help create a more inclusive future for organic farming.”


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