SR1 is launching the Community Oriented Opportunities for Learning (C.O.O.L.™) Farming Project through a grant from the USDA. The C.O.O.L.™ Farming Project is designed to educate and train 70 beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers to plan, launch, and/or sustain independent organic farm businesses. Prior farming experience is not required! Anyone can apply and be a participant in the C.O.O.L.™ Farming project. The program is available at no cost to the 70 participants.

According to the 2019 Organic Survey conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agriculture Statistic Service, Mississippi only has 29 organic certified farms. This ranks near the lowest in the nation in organic farming. None of Mississippi’s 29 organic farms are owned by Blacks, Latinx, and Indigenous farmers. The C.O.O.L.™ Farming project seeks to change this.

“SR1 is conducting the C.O.O.L.™ Farming Project to help beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers learn how to grow and farm using sustainable organic agriculture practices. We want to increase the number of organic producers in Mississippi,” said Dr. Jasmine Hendrix, SR1 Agriculture and Food Science Department Director.

SR1 will operate the C.O.O.L. Farming Project at the Davis-Green Pastures’ Research, Education, and Development Center in Forest, MS (Scott County), and the SR1 Research, Education, and Development Center in Canton, MS (Madison County), the heart of Central Mississippi where fertile soil and temperate climates affords year-round farming.

The C.O.O.L.™ Farming Project is for people with no farming experience and up to ten years of farming experience. The C.O.O.L.™ Farming Project is a three year program. The program is designed for socially disadvantaged farmers to benefit the most.

“Participating in the C.O.O.L™ Farming Project will help you generate new knowledge, skills, and experiences that will contribute to long-term sustainability of organic agriculture practices in Mississippi while ultimately increasing the number of organic producers in Mississippi,” Dr. Hendrix said.

Beginner Farmers and Ranchers in the program will work with an experienced team and gain knowledge and experience to prepare and launch a farm, plus learn how to sustain a farming business. In addition to the organic farming practices, participants will also learn business management and financial management concepts for successful farming. In the second year, farmers will launch their business on a half-acre plot to test commitment and potential for independent farming.

“The C.O.O.L.™ Farming project participants will gain hands-on experiences implementing organic and sustainable agriculture practices, learn about sustainable agriculture practices from a variety of subject area experts, and work with an experienced team to conduct on-farm research-based activities such as organic no-till practices, cover crops, soil management, and much more,” Dr. Hendrix added.

People living in the Central Mississippi Counties of Hinds, Leake, Madison, Neshoba, Rankin, Scott, and Smith are eligible to participate in the “The C.O.O.L.™ Farming project. Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people are encouraged to apply and become a beginner farmer.

To apply, visit the website sr1ag.org. You can also call 601.206.4544 for more information or assistance to apply.

Applications are accepted from February 14 – April 18.

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