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RMA Associate Administrator Visits North Carolina Agriculture and Technical State University

WASHINGTON, DC, Aug 12, 2011' RMA Associate Administrator, Barbara Leach, visited the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University on July 13th, 2011. North Carolina A&T University has a rich history dating back over 118 years; it is a public, land-grant institution located in Greensboro, North Carolina on 200 beautiful acres. The city of Greensboro stood in the heart of the 1960's Civil Rights Movement and is the hometown of the lunch counter sit-ins, involving four A&T freshman students. A&T is the nation's largest historically black university where student enrollment exceeds 10,000. North Carolina A&T is home to the largest agricultural school among historically black colleges or universities and the second largest producer of minority agricultural graduates. The school supports a 600-acre university farm where research focus is on meeting the needs of the state's underserved limited resource population of agricultural producers.

Barbara Leach, Dr. Ralph Noble, visit goat
RMA Associate Administrator, Barbara Leach toured the campus with
Dr. Ralph Noble, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University

Ms. Leach visited the School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, where she was introduced to the many programs the university has that focus on the development and sustainability of small and limited resource farmers. Among these is research on alternative enterprises, niche markets, innovative farm based businesses, as well as environmentally sustainable production systems. Many small farmers in North Carolina produced tobacco prior to the 2004 Federal Tobacco Buyout. These farmers are now looking for alternatives means to replace lost income. North Carolina A&T's School of Agriculture and Environmental Science helps limited resource farmers explore alternative crops and livestock enterprises that can compare in profitability with tobacco.

The Agricultural Research program at A&T teaches former tobacco farmers how to meet growing consumer demand for upscale premium pork by raising old-fashioned hog breeds without the use of antibiotics or hormones, and in accordance with animal welfare guidelines. Some consumers are willing to pay a higher price, either out of the desire to support animal welfare and sustainable agriculture, or because the product just tastes better. Many chefs and gourmet cooks praise the flavor, while farmers are enthusiastic about a new opportunity to replace income lost due to the buyout of the tobacco program.

A&T also teaches growers how to capture niche markets for pastured poultry, exotic vegetables, and goat meat. In major North Carolina cities and surrounding states, there is an unmet need for goat meat that is produced by natural methods which creates a strong niche market for small scale farmers. Growing ethnic populations fuel the increasing demand for goat meat. A&T is educating producers on goat meat production.

A&T's Chancellor, Harold Martin, stated one of the university's goals is to become more "outwardly engaged." In fulfilling that mission, the university is helping small farmers capitalize on opportunities for greater return on small acreages which will enable the survival of the small farm.

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