March 3, 2021

Southern SARE AG Leadership Program

The Southern SARE AG Leadership Program

The Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) program is a thirty plus year effort to advance sustainable agriculture throughout the United States. Southern SARE is designed to achieve these objectives in thirteen southern states, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Southern SARE accomplishes this primarily through its various grant programs.

Southern SARE also supports sustainable agriculture by providing financial support to organizations and institutions to put on educational events such as conferences, workshops and field days as well as providing travel support to educational events. Because COVID-19 has eliminated many of these gatherings, Southern SARE made the decision to direct this funding into other venues. Hence the AG leadership program was born. Today you will meet the four people selected to participate in the initial cohort.

The Participants

The Participants

Felicia Bell

Felicia Bell has worked as a Sustainable Agriculture Specialist at the National Center for Appropriate Technology Gulf States regional office in Jackson, Mississippi since 2013. Bell, a fourth‐generation farmer and founding member of RD&S Farm, LLC, is fascinated by traditional agriculture strategies of all cultures, especially African farming methods and techniques. She was born into agriculture, and what most people today would refer to as homesteading. Her family sustained themselves from the land with food.

Bell’s deep‐rooted values in helping others as a producer have been the driving force in her assisting communities. Over many years, she has learned several appropriate technologies (i.e., methods and practices) to assist small‐ scale producers with resourceful and inexpensive solutions to lessen cost burdens and increase the viability of farm enterprises. These experiences have warranted Bell rewarding opportunities through sustainable agriculture project development, Board of Directors’ assignments, and contractual agreements. Bell believes that everyone deserves the right to access healthy foods, and with the collective effort of small sustainable farmers across the country, this can become a reality.

Felicia’s project will include presentation of workshops and coaching for small/micro farmers from the Gullah/Geechee community and other historically underserved populations. Topics will include equity in the context of agriculture; farm planning tools and techniques for small‐scale operations; navigating federal, state and local resources; and planning for long‐term capacity development. This project will connect smaller farm operations to critical resources that will help maintain and grow their farm businesses despite market disruptions due to COVID‐19. As a result of this project, more farmers will have a better chance of sustaining their families and communities through healthy food options.

Najmah Thomas

Najmah Thomas has worked closely with local farmers, including Gullah/Geechee farmers, to help establish markets, seedexchanges,
and provide technical assistance for small farmers for the past 6 years. She was recently elected to serve as the Regional
Champion for the South Carolina Black Farmers Coalition, Beaufort/St. Helena Island region. In this role, she provides assistance for
limited-resource farmers who have difficulty completing paperwork required to access federal, state and local resources.

Najmah is a partner with Earth People™, a small family-owned farm on St. Helena Island, and an associate professor of public policy at the University of South Carolina Beaufort where she conducts participatory action research in partnership with Gullah/Geechee farming communities, social action organizations, and other researchers seeking equity for historically marginalized farmers in South Carolina.

Najmah’s project will include presentation of workshops and coaching for small/micro farmers from the Gullah/Geechee community and other historically underserved populations. Topics will include equity in the context of agriculture; farm planning tools and techniques for small-scale operations; navigating federal, state and local resources; and networking for long-term capacity development. This project will connect smaller farm operations to critical resources that will help maintain and grow their farm
businesses despite market disruptions due to COVID-19. As a result of this project, more farmers will have a better chance of sustaining their families and communities through healthy food options.

Sedrick Rowe

My name is Sedrick Rowe I am a young farmer from Albany Georgia where I own and operate Rowe organic farms LLC which is a certified farm where I grow organic hemp, canola, watermelon and peanuts. I created a South Georgia Young Farmer Coalition chapter in my community to be able to teach upcoming farmers and beginning farmers the language and policies in the farm bill. I also serve on the agriculture committee board for the Camilla high school, along with the National Board of Young Farmers Coalition. Being a founding member of Georgia Organic Peanut Association (GOPA) where I help start the organic peanut market in Georgia. I am an example to my community by been able to show them that the work can be done and we need more people to be involved in agriculture. I am the first and youngest male organic hemp growing in South Georgia.

Growing hemp in South Georgia course will teach people in the community and surrounding areas how to properly grow hemp and work conservation practices that would be best to maintain the healthiness of the soil. The project will also have specialized people from the industry to be able to lay out the format that people will need getting into an agreement with a processor. Also showing demonstrations on how to properly prepare the land to be able to grow the best crop. The course allow people to receive the best education experience available from experts. Some objectives they will take from the course will be recognizing the historical importance of hemp in the geographical area, understanding best practices for growing, harvest, and processing industrial hemp for grain, fiber, and CBD production and recognizing the environmental and economic benefits and challenges that a hemp industry might create.

Otis Wright, Jr.

Otis Wright, Jr, a native of Tallulah, La, serves as the CEO of  AG-ECO which is a consultant company that assist non-profits organizations and businesses whose mission is to assist farmers with technical assistance. Wright recently serves as a tech specialist for the Hinds County Soil and Water Conservation which is an affiliate of USDA/NRCS. In this position Wright assists farmers with conservation plans and other assistance through NRCS.

Wright is the former Farm Manager for the Jackson Medical Mall Foundation under the Arts &Culture Program. He also served as Director of Tougaloo College Farm Aid which is a USDA 2501 Outreach and advocacy program for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. As director, Mr. Wright managed the direction of the program, and its outreach and advocacy services in seven counties in the Mississippi Delta.

Otis’s project We will develop and hold training sessions on developing cooperatives and establishing urban agriculture in Jackson MS.  Training will be a combination in-person and virtual sessions Jackson, Mississippi has many food insecure areas.  We are also home to one of the largest urban farms in the country.  This project will further sustainable agriculture by educating local farmer on how to develop sustainable urban farms.  It will also lead to providing more fresh local food to areas of Jackson that sorely needs it.

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