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FFAR Announces $1 Million for Organic Research at Tuskegee University
Investment aims to advance organic agriculture and support equity in farming
WASHINGTON (Nov. 15, 2022) – Today, the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) announced a $1 million award to Tuskegee University to create an endowment to advance organic agriculture and farming practices through the university’s College of Agriculture, Environment and Nutrition Sciences (CAENS). This award matches the $1 million investment by Clif Bar & Company, a leading maker of organic energy foods with a longtime commitment to sustainable agriculture practices, for a total Tuskegee University endowment of $2 million.
Clif Bar & Company chose Tuskegee University for this endowment because of their demonstrated commitment to, and leadership in, organic agriculture in the Southeastern U.S., including their partnerships with other Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to advance organic practices.
The growth of organic farming lacks regional and racial diversity, which is compounded by funding inequality. A 2022 Forbes article outlined significant funding disparities at the nation’s Black land-grant universities compared to their predominantly white counterparts over the last three decades. Furthermore, the latest U.S. Census of Agriculture indicates that of the 30,909 certified organic farms in the U.S., only 5% are Black-owned. Through financial inequality and a lack of representation, farmers in the Southeastern U.S. have lacked access to organic agriculture research that could increase production and improve soil health.
“Investing in an organic and equitable future for U.S. farming and agriculture is imperative to advancing our food systems and ensuring broader access to organic food for all,” said Dr. Joe K. Kpomblekou, research professor of plant and soil science at Tuskegee University. “We are grateful to Clif Bar for their industry leadership and commitment to organic research and education, which will ultimately benefit not just Tuskegee University but inspire more Black leaders in organic farming.”
The award will fund future opportunities and activities that increase the adoption of organic farming practices in the Southeast and increase equity in organic farming. It will support the work of Kpomblekou and the university’s Plant and Soil Science Professor and Researcher Dr. Franklin Quarcoo in developing a network of organic research among Southeast academic institutions, with a focus on HBCUs.
“Organic farming research can assist producers in implementing sustainable soil health management practices, increase resilience to climate change and strengthen our food systems,” said Dr. LaKisha Odom, FFAR scientific program director and Tuskegee alumna. “FFAR is proud to partner with Clif Bar to maximize investment in the advancement of organic agriculture and support equity in farming through this endowment to Tuskegee University.”
Founded in 1881 by Booker T. Washington, Tuskegee has a long history of innovation in agriculture, including the contributions of George Washington Carver who worked at the university most of his adult life and is known for his work on soil chemistry and crop rotation, and his commitment to support Southern Black farmers. Today, the university has a center for Plant Biotechnology Research which is training scientists from around the world and has one of the first centers funded by NASA to develop a technology for growing food in space during human space missions.
Clif Bar has been a champion for the planet since its founding 30 years ago, which includes a longtime commitment to sustainable agriculture practices including organic, having purchased more than 1.4 billion tons of organic ingredients since 2003.
“At Clif, our purpose is to redesign the business of food for the benefit of health, equity and Earth, and supporting Tuskegee’s work to make organic more accessible and equitable is a meaningful way to deliver on that promise,” said Senior Vice President of Impact & Communications at Clif Bar & Company, Roma McCaig. “We are committed to diversity, equity and inclusion and are proud to support Tuskegee’s work that will help create a more inclusive future for organic farming.”
Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research
The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) builds public-private partnerships to fund bold research addressing big food and agriculture challenges. FFAR was established in the 2014 Farm Bill to increase public agriculture research investments, fill knowledge gaps and complement USDA’s research agenda. FFAR’s model matches federal funding from Congress with private funding, delivering a powerful return on taxpayer investment. Through collaboration and partnerships, FFAR advances actionable science benefiting farmers, consumers and the environment.