Located near Mound Bayou
By MARK H. STOWERS
The Bolivar Bullet
Just outside Mound Bayou sits 45-acres of fertile Delta soil that is leased out to the Alcorn University Extension Service. It is at this location that the extension service has created the Alcorn State University Extension/Research Farm & Technology Transfer Center.
The land is leased from the North Bolivar County Development Corporation. The Center is the first off-campus agricultural educational outreach center in Alcorn State University Extension Program’s history devoted to extension and research demonstrations. Farm Manager John Coleman Sr. oversees the farm with an extension staff that are constantly growing crops and educating school age children, local residents, and others about all things farming. The main crops consist of fruits and vegetables with a year-round bounty.
“We grow spring, summer and winter vegetables,” said Coleman. “Our top seller is our purple hull peas. We also grow butterbeans and five variety of greens.”
The fall crop consists of sweet potatoes and in the spring, mustard and turnip greens are planted. This past year weather was a bit of a problem. The farm is usually a busy place, but COVID and pandemic restrictions kept the normal educational outreaches shut down. But, with most of that behind them, the staff are ready to hire summer interns and educate visitors to the farm as well.
Though it stretches out to 45-acres, most of the work is done by hand or with smaller equipment. Coleman and his staff rely on some aging implements and certainly are open to any farm machinery donations.
“We have a one row pea harvester, but we also try to utilize as much manual labor through community volunteers,” he said. “We have a system called ‘Pick on Half’ where those who come pick can keep half and give the farm half.”
The farm is looking for four high schoolers, from grades tenth to twelve, to intern this summer. In addition to learning how the farm works on every level, the interns will have the opportunity to go to Stoneville and other field trips. They also help make vegetable deliveries across the Delta.
“The students will basically get first-hand experience on what it takes to run a farm. We are trying to encourage and engage more young people in agriculture. We help them understand the field of agriculture is very broad,” said Coleman.
High schools are invited to tour the farm and learn the ins and outs of farming. This is also a recruiting tool for Alcorn State University. The research farm promotes healthy eating and shares the harvested vegetables with local communities.
“We don’t compete with local farmers. We don’t sell our produce for less than they sell theirs,” he said.
“Education is the main thing we do as well as technical assistance to local farmers who have limited resources and are socially disadvantaged,” he said. “We also assist gardeners by providing technical assistance such as what seeds to use, what fertilizers to use and help with insect problems.”