Wednesday, June 27

Youth learn about STEM during SARDI’s Summer Camp

Photos from the first week of SARDI's STEM Summer Camp. 

Baton Rouge, La. – Thirty youth arrived at the Sustainable Agriculture Rural Development Institute (SARDI) on June 4 to begin their first week of summer camp.
Antonio Harris, SARDI’s director, greeted the students, introduced them to the staff and discussed the rules and guidelines of the summer camp.

The students enjoyed their classes which included Mathematics, where they completed work on graphing/multiplication; Creative Writing, where they completed their daily journals and started on their, “African American Authors and Inventors project; Agriculture, where they learned three different characteristics of fruit and in Science, where they began their project on their favorite scientist.

The camp’s instructors are Zenobia Guillory – Mathematics/Science, Heather Bob - Creative Writing and Taranza Arvie – Agriculture.

SARDI’s staff takes pride in providing safe, fun and educational programs for youth in rural areas. The staff, along with the campers, are looking forward to the next three weeks of camp.

The Sustainable Agriculture Rural Development Institute is a satellite campus of the SU Ag Center housed in Opelousas, La. It focuses on improving the socioeconomic well-being of citizens in rural communities within a ten-parish region of St. Landry, Acadia, Allen, Avoyelles, Beauregard, Evangeline, Lafayette, Pointe Coupee, St. Martin, and Vermillion Parishes.

The SU Ag Center and College of Agricultural, Family and Consumer Sciences together are called the Southern University Agricultural Land-Grant Campus.

For additional information about SARDI or to receive information about its programs and services, call 337-943-2410.


Tuesday, June 26

Recent SU College of Ag graduate Kalaia Tripeaux has been accepted into Penn State

Baton Rouge, La. – Recent Southern University graduate and Baton Rouge native Kalaia Tripeaux has been accepted into Pennsylvania State University to pursue a Master’s degree in Urban Forestry.

“When I opened my official acceptance letter from Penn State University, I was extremely excited and relieved,” said Tripeaux. “Being accepted into Penn State was not only an exhilarating feeling for me but it was also a proud moment for my family, friends, and mentees who have all been with me along the interesting journey through my matriculation at Southern University,” expressed Kalaia.

“Ever since I was a little girl, I have been goal oriented, strong minded, and determined to accomplish all of my dreams and aspirations,” she added.

This determination and drive was evident throughout her college career where she consistently ranked at the top of the urban forestry student body.

She has presented research papers at national conferences and demonstrated her academic excellence through her course works, internships, scholarships, international study, and professional services.

Her efforts have resulted in many honors and awards, including being named the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) All-Star, U.S. Department of Agriculture 1890 Institution Scholar, Society of American Foresters Diversity Ambassador, Southern University International Research Experience Global Scholar, and Auburn University Graduate Diversity Campus Experience Program Scholar.

During Southern University’s Spring 2018 Commencement Exercise on May 11, in which she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Urban Forestry, Kalaia earned the title of student marshal – the student graduating with the highest grade point average – for the College of Agricultural, Family and Consumer Sciences.

“Kalaia is a young lady who does not settle for business as usual, she goes the extra miles to be a leader. She has made us proud and she represents the quality of the students whom we have mentored and nurtured at Southern University,” said Zhu Ning, Ph.D., an Endowed Professor at Southern University. “I whole-heartedly recommended Kalaia to Penn State University, where she will work under my collaborator professor Bill Elmendorf with a graduate assistantship of $40,800 annually,” added Ning.

Tripeaux was recruited into the Urban Forestry undergraduate program at Southern University in the Fall of 2014 by then Urban Forestry professors Andra Johnson, Ph.D., and Ning through the Beginning Agriculture Youth Unlimited (BAYOU) Program, with Dr. Johnson’s outstanding ability in attracting new students, and Ning’s externally funded projects providing students with research stipends.

“It has been one of the great joys of my life to watch Kalaia grow and develop into the leader she has become,” said Johnson, who is currently the Vice Chancellor for Research at the Southern University Ag Center. “Her commitment and dedication to her studies, peers, family, and community are a testament to a truly remarkable young lady,” added Johnson, who is also a proud alumni of both Southern University and Penn State University.

“Congratulations to Ms. Kalaia Tripeaux and her mentors for not only mentoring Kalaia through undergraduate school, but paving the way for her to continue on into graduate school,” remarked Bobby R. Phills, Ph.D., Chancellor of the Southern University Ag Center and Dean of the SU College of Agriculture, Family and Consumer Sciences.

“My advice for students around the world is to never give up on living your dreams. This means not only wishing and praying but putting in the work that it takes in order to actually achieve your dreams and goals. Try new and different things,” said Kalaia. “Who would have ever thought a city girl like me would major in Urban Forestry? Well, I just remained my authentic self and never changed for anyone while incorporating my academic and professional skills needed in my field,” she said.

As for her future academic plans, Kalaia says she will obtain a Masters in Human Dimensions and Natural Resources then pursue a doctorate in another area of agricultural sciences to gain more knowledge about environmental policies. She ultimately plans to gain employment with the U.S. Department of Agriculture headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“Even though I have found a new home at Penn State, Southern University will always be my foundation and I am a proud alumni,” said Kalaia. “If you believe in your dreams, you can achieve them. Live your best life and make your dreams a reality,” she added.

For more information, please contact Miss Kalaia Tripeaux’s Academic Adviser Zhu Ning at


Thursday, June 21

SU Land-Grant Campus’ Fast Track Garden Thrives

Photos from the Fast Track Gardening Program at Thrive Academy in Baton Rouge. 

Baton Rouge, La. – Fifteen high school students from Thrive Academy have graduated from the Southern University Agriculture Land-Grant Campus’ (SUALGC) Fast Track Garden Program.

The graduation ceremony was held on May 15 at the school.

Throughout the 2017-2018 school year SUALGC Garden Instructor, Stephanie M. Elwood, taught hands-on classes to the 9-11th grade students in Ms. Hollins Chemistry class. During the classes, the students planted a citrus orchard of orange, kumquat, satsuma and lemon trees on the school’s grounds and learned landscaping skills by building an ornamental flower bed outside of their on-campus dorm facility.

In total, the students helped assemble three, 4x8 ft. vegetable garden lumber raised flower beds on the campus. The students filled the flowering beds with soil, planted, fertilized and maintained the garden throughout school year.

The classes also included exploring how hip hop and gardening go together and how to make healthier food choice for a better quality of life. Life skills, careers in agriculture and agricultural opportunities for teens were also part of the weekly curriculum.

Thrive Academy is a residential charter school located in South Baton Rouge, which houses and teaches some of Baton Rouges’ most creative, charismatic and brightest students. 

Special thanks to the SUALGC Fast Track team, Dr. Yemane Ghebreyessus, Kelli Hollins, Stephanie M. Elwood, Mila Berhane, and Southern University Agricultural Economics student Simeon Ross.

For additional information about the SUALGC’s Track Fast Gardening Program, contact Stephanie Elwood at or at 225-771-2134.

The Southern University Ag Center and the SU College of Agricultural, Family and Consumer Sciences together are called the Southern University Agricultural Land-Grant Campus.


Tuesday, June 19

St. Helena Parish Ag Day showcases farms and teaches youth where their food comes from

St. Helena Parish Ag Day participants walk down the rows of vegetable plants on Warner Hall's farm in Greensburg, La.

Baton Rouge, La. – The Southern University and LSU Ag Centers held their annual St. Helena Parish Ag Day on June 15 at the Fifth Ward Recreation Center in Amite, La.

Burnell Muse, SU Ag Center Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent, and Dawn Mellion-Patin, Ph.D., SU Ag Center’s Vice Chancellor for Extension and Outreach, welcomed the nearly 90 youth and adults attending the event before the group left the center to tour several farms.

The group visited the vegetable farms of Warner Hall and Jerry Hall, both in Greensburg, La. During the visits, both producers talked to the group about the farming methods they used to grow their vegetables. Both producers also emphasized the use of pollinator plants in their gardens to attract bees that help to pollinate their vegetable plants.

The group also toured St. Helena College and Career Academy’s school garden.

“This event is being held so farmers can showcase the activities on their farms and for the kids to see what actually happens on a farm, where their food comes from and the process involved in growing food,” said Muse.

The 65 youth in attendance participated in a plant propagation demonstration which was facilitated by SU Ag Center staff members Mila Berhane and Stephanie Elwood.

Jay Meadows with the Louisiana Department of Ag and Forestry also spoke to the youth about forestry fire protection.

The adults participated in a produce safety/Gap Certification training conducted by SU Ag Center’s Fatemeh Malekian, Ph.D. and Emily King.

Kimberly Knighten with United Health Care also facilitated a health and wellness workshop.

Muse said the two Ag Center’s incorporated health on the farm into the program this year after noticing that several older farmers were in poor health.

“We want to start conditioning young farmers early in life to protect their plants, but also to protect their bodies,” said Muse.

Dennis Ware, with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service; Patrick Babineaux, with the Farm Service Agency, the St. Helena Cattle Company and Tri-Parish Community Farmers also spoke to the group.

For more information about agricultural programs and services in St. Helena Parish, contact Burnell Muse at 225-222-4136.

Photos from the St. Helena Parish Ag Day are available here.


Thursday, June 14

SU Land-Grant Campus teaches community how to stay health during Personal Health History Workshop

Participants learned to do low impact exercises doing the April 26 Personal Health History Workshop. 

Baton Rouge, La. – The SU Land-Grant Campus’ Family and Human Development Unit held its second Personal Health History Workshop on April 26 at the SU Ag Center.

During the workshop Oschner Health System’s Diabetes Nurse Brittany George, ASACNP-BC, discussed proper foot care for diabetics.

Cheryl Atkinson, Professor of Food and Nutrition at the SU College of Agricultural, Family and Consumer Sciences, discussed how blood pressure and blood sugar respond to dietary factors.

Nena Verrett-Gipson, Coordinator of Fitness and Wellness at the SU sports complex, demonstrated how to do several low impact exercises and Kenny Ricard with the East Baton Rouge Parish Mosquito Abatement and Rodent Control shared ways to protect yourself from mosquitos.

SU Land-Grant Campus Extension Associate Stephanie Elwood demonstrated how to prepare a flower garden for spring.

The event ended with remarks by SU Land-Grant Campus Chancellor-Dean, Bobby R. Phills, Ph.D.

For additional information about the workshop, contact Delores Johnson and Milissia John-Baptiste Cole at, 225-771-3704 or, 225-771-2583.

Photos from the event are available here.


Monday, June 4

SU Land-Grant Campus holds graduation ceremony for its Ag Leadership Institute

Dawn Mellion-Patin, Ph.D., SU Land-Grant Campus Vice Chancellor for Extension and Outreach, and the Cohort VI graduates of the Regional Small Farmer Agricultural Leadership Institute.

Baton Rouge, La. – Twenty-three small farmers from 11 states received certificates of completion during a graduation ceremony for Cohort VI of the SU Land-Grant Campus’ Regional Small Farmer Agricultural Leadership Institute.

The ceremony was held on June 1, 2018 in the Southern University Law Center.

Dawn Mellion-Patin, Ph.D., Vice Chancellor for Extension and Outreach at the SU Land-Grant Campus, presided over the ceremony and SU Land-Grant Campus Chancellor-Dean, Bobby R. Phills, Ph.D. welcomed the group.

During the ceremony, M. Ray McKinnie, Ph.D., Dean and Extension Administrator at Virginia State University discussed how the leadership institute was developed; while USDA/1890 Program Manager Allison Johnson encouraged the graduates to continue to utilize the USDA’s services and program to assist them in their future agricultural operations.

Cindy Ayers-Elliot, Ph.D., CEO of Foot Print Farms in Jackson, Miss., served as the keynote speaker for the ceremony. Ayers-Elliot was introduced by Anthony Reed from Alcorn State University.

Foot Print Farms was established after 9/11 when Ayer-Elliot, a former investment banker, had a desire to do more in life. The 68-acre sustainable farm serves as an outdoor classroom where visitors and members of Jackson’s underserved neighborhoods learn to grow their food, while receiving education about healthy eating through partnerships with churches, schools, foundations and community organizations.

Ayers-Elliot encouraged the graduates to continue to work with the Southern University Ag Center, foster the friendships they have development with their classmates, try to work with co-ops and utilize the USDA’s services and programs.

“I can grow that,” said Patin in her closing remarks. “If you need to grow courage to jump over the mountain, than grow courage. If you need to grow wisdom to step back from the situation, grow wisdom. If you need to grow courage to step into uncharted waters, grow courage. Remember, I can grow that.”

The Cohort VI graduates of the Regional Small Farmer Agricultural Leadership Institute are:

LeMario Brown - Fort Valley, GA
Davon Goodwin - Raeford, NC     
Randolph Keaton - Riegelwood, NC
Kenneth Swift - East Point, GA
Kim Butler – Baton Rouge, LA
Nicolette Gordon – Greensburg, LA
Erika Muhammad – Dallas, TX
Dionnette Swinney - Rockingham, SC
Kimberly Aultman – Slidell, LA
Reginald Davis – Mobile, AL
Charles Greenlea – Atlanta, GA
Fenton Pope - Collins, MS
T’arie Todam – Manassas, VA
Robert Bell – Birmingham, AL
Wendell Dean – Louisville, KY
Jeremy Hendrix – Baton Rouge, LA
Patrick Richardson – Folsom, LA
Marco Toney – Eudora, AR
Herbert Brown, Sr. – Freeman, VA
Michelle Farris - Ventress, LA
Kellie Johnson – Orangeburg, SC
Thomas Roberson – Fredericksburg, VA
Albert White – Baton Rouge, LA

Click here to view photos from the ceremony.