Mississippi Delta Community College (MDCC) has been awarded a grant in the amount of $18,441.13 to grow organic specialty vegetables, host annual farmers conferences and workshops, improve fresh vegetable consumption and education in the Mississippi Delta (Moorhead) community and enhance the institution's agriculture program by engaging students in extensive research related to specialty crops.
The grant project, entitled "Expanding Agriculture Initiatives in the Mississippi Delta by Cultivating, Disseminating, and Growing Organic Vegetables," will run from Sept. 30, 2020, until Sept. 29, 2022. The grant was awarded by the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce and was submitted as part of the fiscal year 2020 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.
"I thank the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce for affording MDCC the opportunity to advance specialty crop initiatives in the Mississippi Delta. I was responsible for administering the specialty crop grant while serving as executive director of Title III and Sponsored Grants at Hinds Community College - Utica Campus, so I know firsthand how this grant program can positively impact our students, prospective students, and the surrounding community," said Dr. Steven J. Jones, vice president of Administrative Services. "This grant was written with all of our stakeholders in mind, and I am very excited to see and taste the organic vegetables soon to be grown by our agriculture department."
Dr. Jones said he believes the grant will also boost enrollment in our agriculture program, build and foster community and educate the surrounding Mississippi Delta population about healthy eating.
Field Crops Instructor Barry Corley is enthusiastic about the project as well. Corley hopes that this can be a jumping-off point to reconnect with community gardens and the community in general.
"What we want to do is work with the people in the community and with our community gardens to teach the public how to grow organic produce," said Corley. "I think COVID really proved that people could go back to being self-supported, and that's what we're looking at doing."
Corley also believes that the project's focus on being self-sustaining will lead to many Mississippi Delta citizens becoming healthier.
"We don't always eat healthy here in the Delta. One reason is that we don't have an easy source of high quality, fresh food. If people could find a good source or grow their own produce, knowing they've got something that's fresh, they can pick it and go right to their kitchens," continued Corley. "It doesn't take much. It's not very expensive. If you have a spot in the back yard, you can grow a lot on a limited space."
MDCC President Dr. Tyrone Jackson is pleased and excited about the future of the grant as well.
"At MDCC, we're always looking for ways to help our students advance academically. The ability to simultaneously serve our surrounding communities is an exciting bonus," said Jackson. "We are proud of the excellent work put forth by our faculty and staff to secure this grant and are excited about what's to come."
Corley and Suzanne Thompson, Dean of Career-Technical and Adult Education, will be meeting with Dr. Jones on Nov. 9 to cement plans on moving forward with the program implementation.