Friday, September 18

SU Ag Center holds Graduation Ceremony for the Nationally Recognized Small Farmer Ag Leadership Institute

Baton Rouge, La – Nineteen participants from Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas were honored during a graduation ceremony on Friday, Sept. 18 for completing their two-year course of study in the Southern University Ag Center’s Small Farmer Agricultural Leadership Institute.

The graduation ceremony marked the completion of the Institute’s 5th class in its 10-year history.

United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Dr. Joe Leonard served as the keynote speaker for the ceremony.

Leonard praised the SU Ag Center’s administrators and Dr. Dawn Mellion-Patin, director of the Institute, for sharing the program with not only the citizens of Louisiana; but the Southern region of the country.

“This is the best part of my job,” said Leonard, “meeting you all.”

Leonard went on to thank the participants for the time they invested and encouraged them to continue to learn.   

“We see you and honor the accomplishments that you have made. We are looking forward to greater accomplishments,” said Leonard.

He concluded his speech by sharing the final words spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN. After being told that one of the members of the “The Soul Stirrers” singing group was downstairs in the hotel. Dr. King said, “Tomorrow, at the next event, play (the song) ‘Precious Lord, Take My Hand’ and play it real pretty for me.” King was shot and murdered in the next instance.

“I bring that up because his truth marches on in you all. Some 45 years later you have to feel and believe that truth marches on. And I could be wrong or I could be right, but whatever endeavor you do, you will have to take the Lord’s hand.”

Dr. L. Washington Lyons, Executive Administrator of the Association of Executive Administrators presided over the program. SU Ag Center interim Chancellor Dr. Adell Brown, Jr. provided a welcome and opening remarks and Vice Chancellor for Extension Dr. Gina E. Eubanks provided the program’s closing remarks.

The ceremony was also attended by Kevin Norton, Director of Louisiana’s USDA National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Craig McCain, Director of Louisiana’s USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA).

About the Small Farmer Agricultural Leadership Institute

The Small Farmer Agricultural Leadership Institute is a two-year course of study specifically designed to guide small, socially disadvantaged, limited resource and/or minority farmers through the transformative process of becoming successful agricultural entrepreneurs.

The goal of the Institute is to promote the sustainability of small family farms through enhanced business management skills and leadership development. The leadership institute has taken the majority of the participants from being just small producers through the mindset of being great producers with limited acreage, herds or holdings.

The SU Ag Center is collaborating with the Southern University Law Center, Alcorn State University - Small Farm Development Center, Prairie View A & M University - Cooperative Extension Program and North Carolina A & T State University - Cooperative Extension Program to bring the Institute to the farmers in various locations.

For more information about the SU Ag Center’s Small Farmer Agricultural Leadership Training Institute contact Dawn Mellion-Patin, Ph.D., director, at 225-771-3532 or visit,


Contact: LaKeeshia Giddens-Lusk at 225-771-2160 or via e-mail

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