UAPB Educational Centers to Recruit Youth to Agriculture Careers, Assist Local Farmers


Pine Bluff, AR — The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) is establishing educational centers related to climate-smart agriculture and aquaculture on campus and at the UAPB Farm in Lonoke, Arkansas, according to Dr. Tomekia White, facilitator of UAPB’s water quality/water quantity edge-of-field monitoring project. Dr. Mike Daniels, co-founder of Arkansas Discovery Farms, will collaborate with Dr. White in the development of the “UAPB Discovery Farm Educational Centers,” which will be a means of attracting underserved undergraduate students, as well as children and youth, to careers in agriculture.

Funded by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s 1890 Capacity Building Grants Program, the centers will be used to train both students and local producers in water conservation and other environmental practices. Over $1.2 million was awarded to support the project.

“With climate change continuing to affect agriculture, farmers must be educated on climate-smart practices to be productive and profitable and help our environment,” Dr. White said. “We must remove the barriers and misconceptions about agriculture given the growing need to produce a qualified workforce to help resolve these timely issues. It is imperative that we attract our youth, especially in underserved communities, to be more involved because they have the potential to be future leaders and address these timely issues.”

Dr. White said the program activities will strengthen Extension and education efforts to provide resources for historically underserved farmers, teachers, youth and undergraduate and graduate students within local communities.

To fulfill the goal of contributing to the next generation of graduates in food, agriculture, natural resources and human (FANH) sciences, Dr. White and other program leaders aim to connect partner organizations with local youth.

“The first step is building and fostering relationships with U.S. Department of Agriculture agencies, public schools and local 4-H clubs to introduce youth to FANH and USDA careers at an early age,” Dr. White said. “This will be accomplished through peer-to-peer mentoring, summer camps and field trips for students at public schools, sponsorship of clubs/organizations, and the promotion of the farm-to-school initiative. The combination of formal and non-formal educational opportunities will lead to positive youth development.”

The educational center will also provide domestic apprenticeships for undergraduate and graduate students to extend their knowledge of the wide range of career opportunities in FANH areas, especially in historically underserved communities.

In regard to the center’s Extension and outreach efforts, UAPB plans to establish a Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) junior chapter on campus in conjunction with local high schools. Dameion White, MANRRS coordinator for UAPB, will be responsible for establishing this club, which will be the second MANRRS junior chapter in Arkansas.

Program coordinators also aim to promote the Farm to School Initiative within K-12 schools to teach students how to start and maintain community gardens. Students will also learn about sustainable practices in gardening, water quality monitoring and effective aquatic ecosystem management.

Dr. White said a month-long summer camp called “Ag on the Move” is also in development. Both high school students and teachers will be trained in the use of electronic applications for agriculture.

The program will include topics such as surveying, robotics, agricultural education integration, water quality/quantity, soil health and fish health.

Dr. White will work with Dr. Henry English, director of the UAPB Small Farm Program, in establishing the Urban Farmer Mentoring Program. This project will connect local farmers with “mentor farmers” who can assist in implementing climate-smart practices at farmer’s private land, as well as provide Extension and educational training on climate-smart practices on campus.

“I am confident that this initiative has the potential to make a profoundly positive impact – both for students and local farmers,” Dr. White said. “We have established a partnership council to help evaluate the center as we strive to build a strong foundation in providing every available resource for historically underserved communities.”