Fort Valley State University (FVSU) is one of two land-grant institutions in Georgia. It puts this distinction to agricultural work from the classroom to the community. So much so that FVSU has been U.S. Department of Agriculture-approved to develop a new center of agriculture, innovation and entrepreneurship on campus. “We’re in the planning phases of launching this new center,” said FVSU President Paul Jones. “It’s important to the region, because this center will become the first of its kind in Georgia connected to the community and helping those interested in how to bring their products and ideas to market.”
The center will provide FVSU’s student agriculturalists and area farmers with the infrastructure to market their agribusinesses effectively in the 21st-century, digital economy. A major resource Black Belt Region farming communities lack. The creation of the center is now in the final approval stage with the University System of Georgia, said Jones. “This center is our way of adapting to agriculture’s new reality: Technology, science and innovation are what young folks are interested in,” Jones said. “Our students and community members have ideas, but sometimes they don’t know what to do with these ideas and how to use technology to make them happen. Creating this type of playground is a way for them to become empowered to push their ideas through.”
The center will teach about marketing strategy and logistics to packaging and labeling. Empowering student and local farmers to learn new farm management skills to compete globally, FVSU also rolled out its rebranding campaign “Empower the Possible” at the end of spring 2019. The flaming V-shaped torch design and slogan continues to signify FVSU is Georgia’s academic and agricultural light in the valley. “This rebranding is our way of modernizing what it means to be inclusive and a historically black college and university,” said Jones, who is in his fourth year at FVSU. “We needed this change, especially since our students have such strong entrepreneurial spirits.”
Changes will take place in a few other agricultural-related spaces on campus heading into the 2019-2020 academic year:
* The expansion of FVSU’s Meat Technology Center: This project will allow more local farmers to process their meat while learning new strategies for packaging and labeling.
* The construction of a campus cannery: This farm-focused factory will help with the assembly of agricultural products from a research, teaching and extension perspective.
* The cultivation of a community garden: This partnership is an opportunity to introduce youth to agriculture and work collectively on the land.
Right now, FVSU is active in roughly 35 counties throughout Georgia, said Jones. Established during 1895, the university worked its way up to become the No. 1 producer of African-American students with bachelor’s degrees in agriculture, agriculture operations and related sciences. FVSU ranked No. 25 nationally in graduating African-American agriculturalists. It’s also the lead institution for an international research group dedicated to finding natural methods of controlling disease in animals.
“We partner across the state to solve Black Belt farming problems with our students, who help us deal with local, regional and national issues,” said Jones. “Moving forward, we’re really re-assessing how FVSU does business. From the new center to the developing cannery, we want to become a full-service facility and value-adding asset to farmers and our surrounding communities.”