WASHINGTON, DC (Aug. 1, 2015) – The National Black Growers Council (NBGC) announced the inaugural class of its signature NBGC Ag Apprenticeship Program.
The first two participants, Jeremy Thomas, an Ag Economics major from Opelousas, LA and Eddie Reynolds Jr., an Urban Forestry major from Rayville, LA are both students at Southern University and A&M College, a historically black college and university (HBCU) located in Baton Rouge, LA. They are under the guidance of hosts Harper Armstrong (Armstrong Farms) and Antwain Downs (Downs Farms) both of Bastrop, LA.
The eight-week program is designed to provide agriculture and related majors who have expressed an interest in a career in Agriculture with substantive time on row crop operation. The Host provides housing and an in-depth on-the-farm experience that familiarizes the student-apprentice with first-hand knowledge of equipment operation, growing practices, farm finance, risk mitigation tools, agri-chemicals, direct marketing and more. By the end of the program, the goal is for the Host to entrust the Apprentice has sufficient knowledge that if he/she had to turn the farming operation over to the Apprentice that they would be able to continue operation. Furthermore, the National Black Growers Council works with participating educational institutions to ensure that the student receives academic credit for their participation in addition to earning a wage.
The first class of the NBGC Ag Apprenticeship program was made possible through the support of one of its Sustaining Members, Monsanto Company. “We certainly would like to thank Monsanto Co., for their support in pioneering this program. The Council has already received significant interest in this program from the Agri-business community and we hope to soon partner with other Sustaining Members to expand the program,” according to NBGC Executive Director Leigh Allen. As the agriculture industry is faced with an increasing average age of growers who will be turning over land and operations by over 60 percent in the next 10 to 15 years. It is imperative that the Council seek an effective remedy to combat the future deficiency by training the next generation of young, and beginning farmers- our Board of Directors has agreed that this is how we must address this challenge. The program will expand to Alabama this fall with Alabama A&M University in Huntsville, AL serving as the partnering HBCU while Bridgeforth Farms of Tanner, AL engages as the Host Farm for two student-apprentices.
The National Black Growers Council is a non-profit organization. Its mission is to improve the efficiency, productivity and sustainability of the Black row crop producer. For more information on the Council and its programs visit, www.nationalblackgrowerscouncil.com or call (202) 544-6513.