GRANT HELPS OPEN FARMERS MARKET IN MACON COUNTY
Alabama Commissioner of
Agriculture and Industries Ron Sparks presented a check for
the establishment of the Tuskegee-Macon County Comprehensive Farmers'
Market to Dr. Benjamin F. Payton, president of Tuskegee University on
|Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries Ron Sparks, left, presented a check for the establishment of the Tuskegee-Macon County Comprehensive Farmers' Market to Dr. Benjamin F. Payton, president of Tuskegee University on March 24.|
The $100,000 grant will be matched with an equal amount in in-kind gifts
from partners Tuskegee University and its College of Agricultural,
Environmental and Natural Sciences, the Macon County Cooperative
Extension, the Macon County Commission and the city of Tuskegee to provide
small farmers and their families with a year-round venue for marketing and
selling their products.
"This is what Tuskegee's mission -- the work of Dr. Booker T. Washington
and Dr. George Washington Carver -- is all about," Payton said. "It is
about helping the underserved to be properly served in ways that enable
them to stand on their feet and to act with dignity."
It's a mission that has moved into the 21st Century, Payton said, adding that Tuskegee has been engaged in a long process of trying to help Black farmers, particularly, but others as well in the Black Belt counties.
"I look forward to working with Tuskegee as it supports small farmers in Alabama," Sparks said. "It's just an honor for me to be here today to give you a check to help the farming community near Tuskegee University."
The logistics of the Farmers' Market are still a work in progress, as staff of Tuskegee University's College of Agricultural, Environmental and
Natural Sciences team with those in Tuskegee's Continuing Education and
Cooperative Extension Program to seek input from farmers and others in the
The general plan, however, calls for a year-round facility in Tuskegee
that includes educational and meeting facilities and areas where farming
families can sell and market crafts and where farmers may prepare, grade,
package, process, market, sell and transport their crops to local, state
and national markets.
Education and training will also be provided to farmers and citizens of Macon County.
Payton sees the Farmers' Market as a community effort, igniting growth
that will help encourage farmers to believe there is a piece of the future
out there for them.
Sparks said he plans to visit the Farmers' Market when it is completed.
"We are very much committed to working with Tuskegee, one of our land-grant universities," Sparks added. "We have to save the family farms of Alabama. They are the backbone of this state. They are valuable to this
state. We can't lose them."
After discussions with College of Agricultural, Environmental and Natural Sciences Dean Walter Hill and other deans at land-grant institutions, Sparks says he and his staff are focusing even more on rural economic
development in Alabama.
"Our department will be very active in rural economic development in the state, which goes hand-in-hand in making sure small farmers survive," he said.
Also attending the March 24 presentation at Tuskegee University wereTuskegee University Board Trustee Willie Kirk, Associate Provost and Director of Continuing Education and Cooperative Extension Velma
Blackwell, and Miles Robinson of Tuskegee University's Small Farm Center,
Scott Absher and George M. Paris of the Department of Agriculture and
Industries, Macon County Commissioner Jesse Upshaw, Michael Sims of the
Macon County Farmers' Association, Arnetta D. White of the Tuskegee
mayor's office, and Macon County Cooperative Extension Agent Walter Baldwin.
For more information on Tuskegee University's Small Farm Center, call
Miles Robinson at (334) 724-4428.