Reaching farmers where they live and work is not a new idea. Tuskegee University’s Dr. George Washington Carver pioneered the idea with his “moveable schools.” Financed by Morris Jesup, these Jesup Wagons brought the University classroom to Alabama’s rural areas. Carver’s Jesup Wagons were originally horse-drawn wagons and later transitioned to trucks. Now, the latest version is a trailer to reach farmers with vital information.
21st Century Jesup Wagon
The effort targets primarily fruit and vegetable producers. It is a USDA funded partnership led by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System at Auburn University and a number of partners.
- Deep South Food Alliance
- Alabama A&M University Small Farms Research Center
- Fort Valley State University
- National Farmers Union
The goal is simple. Use hands on education to increase farm viability with food safety and conservation practices.
Known as the Mobile Farm Innovation Project, these trailers will reach hundreds of socially disadvantaged, limited resource and minority farmers. The trailers will travel Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia–helping farmers improve their bottom lines. Each trailer features interactive activities, demonstrations and presentations. Topics cover food safety, conservation, and computer literacy.
- View videos of farms using conservation buffers and micro-irrigation systems
- Learn how to connect a cold storage system
- Mix and manage sanitizer solutions
- Learn how to create a Google Map of the farm
- Interact with a table top simulation to prevent soil erosion and protect water quality
Along with hands-on activities, participating farmers will receive information about accessing USDA programs that will help pay for farm infrastructure improvements.
Partners See Value
Partners in the Mobile Farm Innovation Project see its value. Andrew Williams with the Deep South Food Alliance notes that this project differs from many others.
“This project focuses on a core group of farmers that the project will serve,” said Williams. “It compensates farmers and allows them to share in the project design.
“In many cases, they are not involved in planning and receive no compensation.”
Farmers will help plan and review each activity to ensure that the activities provide real value. This ensures the Mobile Farm Innovation project produces practical, affordable and effective training that improves market access and long-term farm financial viability.
Food Safety Doesn’t Exist in a Vacuum
Food safety works within a whole farm system. The Mobile Farm Innovation Project takes a holistic view that focuses on farm financial sustainability. This project shows profitable and practical ways to increase bio-diversity on the farm with conservation practices while lowering financial risk with food safety practices.
The 2013 Economic Impacts of Alabama’s Agricultural, Forestry, and Related Industries report indicates the impact of vegetable, melon, tree fruit, tree nut, and peanut farming is $320 million. The industry employs more than 326,000 people in Alabama. Given the nationwide trend supporting local and regional food systems, the region is poised for expansion thanks to a favorable climate and access to water.
This work is supported by Food Safety Outreach Program [grant no. 2019-70020-30349] from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.