Missouri State University
Agriculture Blog

Hope for Haiti


By Laura Wolf, Missouri State alumna

Haiti: the most impoverished country in the world. As the students and professors journeyed from village to village, is was obvious that help had come, but it hadn’t stayed. At one time, a huge influx of support had begun reconstruction on infrastructure and buildings in Port au Prince, the country’s capital. Now, efforts to help exist on a much smaller scale, providing assistance one family or one village at a time.

In Pignon, the group’s destination, a few organizations are working with locals to improve their quality of life. Home of Hope orphanage, operated by members of a congregation in Kansas City, Missouri, provides housing and care to children, and has open dormitories for the visitors.

Project Hope, an organization also based in Kansas City, Missouri, is just across the road. A large building is under construction, which will one day house workers and visitors from abroad, as well as provide seminar and demonstration space for the staff agronomist and visiting experts. Surrounding the construction site are seven acres of donated farmland, which is where our story begins.

Living the public affairs mission

Five Missouri State University Darr School of Agriculture students and two professors, as well as a few Project Hope volunteers, settled in to their dormitory at the orphanage. Other collegians had checked in to luxurious hotels for their spring break adventures, but this group had different goals in mind.

They had prepared seminars on a wide range of topics, from water conservation and composting to human nutrition. Students came from a variety of agricultural backgrouIMG_0964nds to learn about the communities in central Haiti and bring their knowledge to farmers in the area.

“You don’t have to be an agronomy expert to help,” said Melissa Remley, an associate professor from Missouri State. “The main thing was to have that desire to learn about their culture and have that interaction – to want to be there and help.”

The agricultural land next door provides an opportunity for demonstrations and projects to benefit farms and families in surrounding villages. Mike Burton, the lead professor on the trip, said initial projects will likely include testing water retention systems on the landscape with terracing and diversions as well as trials of other practices that will increase long term profitability.

Students presented their seminars in two local villages. Outreach to the rural communities was facilitated by contacts previously established with the orphanage. The seminar audiences were farmers relying on agriculture not as a career, but as a subsistence effort to support their families.

“What we find is that through what we consider pretty typical practices that we would talk about in the soil conservation class or the sustainable agriculture class or plant nutrition and fertility, are all skills that are readily and desperately needed in those villages,” Burton said.

Facing challenges in Pignon

Even something as simple as treating a crop before a rain was a challenge for the communities they visited. The visitors faced challenges because of their assumptions about the tools and education available to villagers.IMG_0954

People might have cell phones, Burton said, but they don’t have calendars, and they don’t necessarily know what the temperature is outside. Most have never seen a radar weather map.

“In a developing nation, everything is more difficult when you don’t have the right tools or materials, even for simple things,” said Ben Rodabaugh, a natural resources student from Lowry City, Missouri, one of the students in the group. “It takes a lot more work to do it by hand and by improvising.”

The trip was eye-opening for students and advisers alike. Remley said the most poignant experience for her was seeing all the communities and churches there to help build an infrastructure and improve people’s lives.

“It’s basic human rights that we’re trying to give these people – proper food, clothing safety,” she said. “So it’s really humbling to see how joyous they are as a people and how helpful they are to one another despite what they don’t have.”

At one village location, students presented seminars on recycling nutrients in compost and saving water. When they gave the audience time for questions, it became clear that it wasn’t water for crops that was their concern. “Their main concern was to have enough drinking water,” Remley said. “As one man put it, ‘I can have crops, I can have food, but I have no water to cook my food in.’”

Silas Myrick, a senior agriculture student from Blue Springs, Missouri, spoke about human nutrition for his seminar. It’s really difficult, he said “telling somebody that they need to drink a certain amount of water every day and then having them reply that often they go days without water because it is difficult to get.”

An ongoing commitment to serve

A common sentiment from participants was one of humility and help. Myrick said the group’s goal was to find needs and try to amend them in any way they could. Remley said it was eye-opening to go there and see with their own eyes how people lived and provided for themselves.

“It’s the public affairs mission at its finest,” Remley said. “I was amazed by these students. We were literally in huts in the middle of these villages talking with people about their issues, going out and seeing their farms and seeing what they’re doing and talking about ways we can give them improvements.

“We learned more than we were telling them, and that gave us a really good idea of what we should go back and research on so we could come back with some helpful answers for them.”

They were also eager to return and continue helping the people they met. “For most of our students, they had never been someplace where they are the minority. And certainly, they had never been someplace where they were not only the minority, but they also couldn’t speak the language,” Remley said.

Between deforestation, poverty, and unpredictable rain, he said Missouri State students and faculty need to go back. “Not to shock our students, but to help where we can and for our student to learn all they can about what might be done,” Remley said.

Students in the Darr School of Agriculture will likely have the opportunity to visit Haiti in coming semesters, as Missouri State is developing a partnership with the University of Haiti to facilitate agricultural improvements, which will soon allow Haitian students to study at Missouri State and Darr students to study for longer periods in Haiti, whether it’s a semester-long Study Away program or master’s research.

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High Tunnel Workshop

Are you interested in learning more about high tunnel production practices? If so, mark your calendar for Thursday, July 23. The State Fruit Experiment Station is hosting a high tunnel workshop in Mountain Grove from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Sessions include:

  • High Tunnel Construction with Norman Kilmer, Morgan County Seed
  • Tomato Production in High Tunnels with Patrick Byers, MU Extension
  • High Tunnel Raspberry Production in High Tunnels with Jennifer Morganthaler and Marilyn Odneal, Missouri State School of Agriculture
  • Discussion Panel Luncheon with Craig Jennings of Three Oaks Farm, Deborah French and Wayne Simpson of Simpson’s Family Farm, Randy Stout or Jeremy Emery of Missouri State School of Agriculture, as well as the program speakers.

After the presentations participants will visit the research and demonstration plantings in the high tunnel at the Fruit Experiment Station. An optional tour of the winery/distillery will be featured after the event.

Registration is $5.00 and pre-registration is required. You can download the registration form here.

Please visit our website for the complete schedule.

The Missouri State Fruit Experiment Station address is 9740 Red Spring Road, Mountain Grove, Mo.

Funds for this workshop were provided in part through the Missouri Department of Agriculture and the USDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.

For questions about your registration, please contact Leslie Akers (LeslieAkers@MissouriState.edu or 417/547-7516).

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We’ve Been Busy!

The end of the semester is always busy for students, faculty and staff. This year was no exception. However, for many the crazy schedule did not stop after classes ended, so we wanted to take a minute to share a couple exciting things people have done the last couple of weeks.

China Study Away

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Landon Bax, Joshua McCormick, and Jesse Carroll peeking out from the Great Wall. Photo courtesy of Melissa Remley.

Shortly after graduation Dr. Melissa Remley travelled to China with five students. For the first five days they worked with researchers and

students at the Ningxia Forestry Institute (a botanical garden/plant research center). Remley said the group visited the institute’s Laboratory for Seedling Bioengineering, germplasm resource garden and field experiments. The institute produces a lot of wolfberries (i.e. gogi berries) and they harvest the berries and young shoots for tea and edible greens. They also grow many other plants, including grapes, and produce wine.

Remley said the best part of the trip was getting to know the researchers and students, bonding over a bon fire and karaoke, making traditional Chinese dumplings and having cultural exchange presentations. “We are still constantly communicating with our friends in China through WeChat (China’s version of Facebook),” Remley said.

The last week of the trip the group was in Beijing.  They spent 3 days touring some historical sites, such as the Great Wall, Forbidden City and Summer Palace. The timing of the trip allowed them to attend an MSU alumni event in Beijing. Remley said they also took in a Kung Fu Show and Chinese Acrobatic Show, which were both amazing.

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Joshua McCormick, Christopher Cahill, Michael Kovens planting seeds in a propagation greenhouse. Photo courtesy of Melissa Remley.

Brazil Study Away

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Missouri State and UniCesumar agriculture students visit the UniCesumar farm and research facilities. Photo courtesy of Mike Klem.

On May 17 students from UniCesumar University in Maringá – PR, Brazil, arrived at Missouri State to spend a week learning about agriculture in Missouri. The group’s schedule included: listening to lectures from School of Agriculture faculty; observing animal science demonstrations at the Darr Center; touring the Fruit Experiment Station, an ADM facility, and the Monsanto research facility in St. Louis; and visiting the Arch.

At the end of the week when the Brazilian students departed, so did eight Missouri State students and two faculty members, Samantha Warner and Mike Klem. Warner said the unique design of the Brazilian study away program allows students from UniCesumar and Missouri State to build relationships and learn about agriculture and culture in both countries.

In Brazil, the schedule included listening to lectures about agriculture in Brazil; touring the University’s farm, a biodiesel facility and an agriculture cooperative; experiencing Brazilian coffee; and visiting Iguaçu Falls. Warner said watching students fall in love with the Brazilian people, culture and landscape was the best part of the trip.

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Missouri State students visited the Iguazu Falls during their study away experience in Brazil. The falls are recognized as a natural wonder of the world. Photo courtesy of Mike Klem.

Transfer Student Practicum

June 4-6 we held our second transfer student practicum. The practicum is funded by a capacity building grant for non-land grant colleges through the USDA. The purpose of the program is to expose community college students to opportunities for continuing their education in the agricultural sciences through a combination of lectures, hands-on activities and exposure to current research projects. This year 12 students and one advisor from OTC attended.


Other events we’ve hosted at the Bond Center recently include:

  • Missouri FFA LEAD – 250 high school students participated
  • MFA, Inc. Southwest Missouri Sales Training Workshop
  • Darr Family Foundation Grant Award Presentation

And the summer has just begun! Stay tuned for more updates on the exciting things our students, faculty and staff are doing on their summer break.

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Mountain Grove Plans Community Workshops

The Missouri State University State Fruit Experiment Station will host two workshops in March that are open to the public. The workshops will demonstrate different techniques that are related to dormant season plant management.

The first workshop is free to the public, and will be a tree and small fruit pruning demonstration held on Saturday, Mar. 7, 2015 from 9a.m. to noon. The demonstration will be performed on apple

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Pruning fruit trees.

, pear, peach, grape, blueberry and blackberry plants. Station employees will be paired with participants and will be available for questions. This will be an outdoor event, so please dress appropriately for the weather.

The second workshop is an apple tree grafting demonstration held on Saturday, Mar. 21, 2015, from 9a.m. to noon. There is a $5.00 entrance fee for the workshop, with two grafted apple trees and grafting supplies to use for the session. Young apple scion wood can be brought for grafting and a limited number of pear rootstocks will be available for $3.00 for those who want to bring pear scion wood for grafting.

Each event will be held at the Missouri State University State Fruit Experiment Station, 9740 Red Spring Rd., Mountain Grove, Mo., 65711.

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School of Ag Welcomes Under Secretary Michael Scuse

The Darr School of Agriculture is excited to announce the upcoming visit of Michael Scuse, under secretary for farm and foreign agricultural services, Tuesday, February 17th. Scuse is the highest ranking USDA official to ever visit MSU.

As part of the Under Secretary’s visit, the School will host a luncheon in his honor. Missouri ag leaders and key stakeholders will be in attendance. During the luncheon he will give a brief update over key agricultural issues, and take questions from the audience.

Scuse will conclude his visit with a student round table discussion about leadership, the importance of agricultural careers and agriculture issues.

Contact Samantha Warner (samanthawarner@missouristate.edu or 417-836-5092) with questions.

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School of Ag Publishes Historical Book

The Darr School of Agriculture was generously gifted a natural forest on the north side of Springfield in December 2013, known as The Woodlands; however, few realize the rich historical relevance the area holds.

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Copies of the book can be found at select locations in the Springfield area, purchased from the School of Ag or downloaded from our website.

Known now for its hands-on teaching and research opportunities for Missouri State students, The Woodlands was once declared a permanent camp for transients during the Great Depression.

Sally Lyons McAlear, former administrative assistant for the School of Ag, grew up half a mile south of the property. McAlear’s passion for the area inspired her to write a book, A Refuge in The Woodlands, about the rich history of the site.

“Because I grew up so close to The Woodlands and had heard about the former transient camp so many times during my childhood (but had no idea what it really was), the project of researching and writing about the topic was very personal. Learning that the property would be donated to the Darr School of Agriculture—where I had worked for so many years—was an added inspiration to write the book,” McAlear said.

The book was recently printed and distributed to libraries and archives in Springfield. An electronic version is located on the School of Ag website for your viewing/printing enjoyment. If you would like to purchase a hard copy, they are $20. You can place an order by contacting the School of Ag main office, at 417-836-5638, until April 15, 2015.





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Funding continues for Midwest Center of National Clean Plant Network-Grapevine

The Center for Grapevine Biotechnology at Missouri State University, under the direction of Dr. Wenping Qiu, received a grant of $50,729 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This grant will allow them to continue testing viruses and producing virus-tested elite grape varieties.

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Faculty provided grape breeding update at USDA Project Director meeting

Dr. Chin-Feng Hwang attended and presented at the annual Project Director meeting for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)-Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Plant Biology and Plant Breeding programs May 14-15 at USDA-NIFA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

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