4 min read
Daivon Allen, the goat technician for Alabama Extension at Alabama A&M University.

ALABAMA A&M UNIVERSITY, Ala. — Daivon Allen is lucky. With discipline and hard work, he is making his dreams come true. He uses his degree and experience in animal science to advance agricultural research and to network with local producers and consumers in north Alabama.

Allen was among the first students mentored by Valens Niyigena, a former Alabama Cooperative Extension System goat specialist. Niyigena developed a program to equip undergraduate students with basic skills in animal care and farm management. As a student, Allen used his agricultural experience and love of goats to land the position of lead goat technician with Alabama Extension at Alabama A&M University (AAMU).

Allen said more than anything, he likes that AAMU is an agricultural school and that he gets to work for Alabama Extension.

“I got my bachelor’s at Alabama A&M University in animal bio-health sciences, and I’m getting my master’s in plant and soil science,” Allen said. “The fact is that I get to apply what I learn out in the field. I get to talk to farmers, consumers and producers.”

A Long Way from Home

Allen is a native of San Bernardino, California. He learned about AAMU by attending a Black College Expo in Los Angeles coordinated by his high school principal, an alumnus of Southern University. Coming to a historically Black college and university in the South as a first-generation college student made everything new and different for him.

“I was raised in the projects, and I didn’t know what agriculture was until I got down south,” Allen said. “It’s all in your face in the South.”

Introduction to WTARS

Daivon Allen pictured with Extension research goats at Alabama A&M.AAMU’s Winfred Thomas Agricultural Research Station (WTARS) in Hazel Green, Alabama, is where the goats used for Extension research are housed. Allen recalls the first day that he drove past the station.

“I remember one day we were just driving by, and my friend said, ‘You know we own that land, but nobody goes out there,'” Allen said.

Luckily, Allen’s curiosity prompted him to look deeper at WTARS. He met AAMU Research Associate Professor Ernst Cebert, the manager of the research station, and it wasn’t long before Allen became part of the WTARS team.

“I met everyone associated with the research station, like Dr. Cebert,” Allen said. “Being on a tractor, planting corn, cotton and soybeans, I just fell in love with it.”

Practical Field Experience

Allen’s educational and on-the-job experience is preparing him to meet his long-term goals.

“I plan to be a veterinarian, and I also want to work for the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) for a little bit,” Allen said. “So, getting my foot in the door with Alabama Extension is something great. If my career grows from here, that’s awesome, but more than anything, I want to serve my community in different parts of the United States.”

While Allen credits his experience with goats to Niyigena, he also had help from AAMU professors like Gamal Eden Abdelrahim and Jorge Vizcarra, as well as farmers in the area. He is particularly glad about expanding his knowledge of the business side of agriculture through his job experience.

“Other than the studies I learned in school, it expanded my knowledge of the business side of goats,” Allen said. “Like the different meat, hair and cheese products, how raising goats on a small acre is better than raising cows on a huge acre, and the economics behind it as well. I got a passion for it, and I love goats.”

Allen said he also learned a lot about the care of goats. This includes FAMACHA scoring, dewormers, body condition scoring, looking at a paddock of grass and knowing when to rotate the goats.

Inspiring Young People About Ag

Allen uses his knowledge to talk to younger audiences about agriculture.

“Not only do I get to use my bachelor’s degree but I get to use my knowledge to go and talk to people,” he said. “A lot of the younger generation has no idea what agriculture is. Agriculture is here to stay. You have to eat and you have to produce clothing.”

Alabama Extension helped Allen discover his passion, and he continues to advise other young people to check out Extension.

“Go and check out the Extension website,” Allen said. “Go do your research on what you want to be involved in and what you’re passionate about.”

Discover Alabama Extension

Allen is grateful for the experiences that AAMU and Alabama Extension have given him.

“Alabama A&M and Alabama Extension are helping me to achieve my long-term goals,” Allen said. “Getting an education while also getting to practice in the field at what I love to do has been great. It’s hands on, and I am also learning more. The people around me also want to learn more, and I get to engage in the community. I get to expand my knowledge, and it’s helping my character and development for my professional career.”

Helping young people reach their full potential is just one of the many ways Alabama Extension delivers solutions for life’s everyday challenges. Extension educators are strong community partners, bringing practical ways to support homes, farms, people and communities. There is more to discover at www.aces.edu/discover.