2024 Innovative Urban Ag Conference: Bridging Education, Agriculture, and Technology

May 24, 2024

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas - Kesha Cobb wanted to combine education, urban agriculture and technology so she applied for the Southern SARE Education grant and was awarded $50,000 to create the 2024 Innovative Urban Ag Conference (IUAC) taking place in the fall. A one day, power-packed event, the IUAC will encompass live, futuristic agriculture exhibits, educational workshops and one-of-a-kind experiences that will expose agricultural producers and consumers to modern-day practices and industry goals.

“I liked the fact that Southern SARE was regionally focused because what works in Arkansas may not work in L.A. and this is what our southern region needed,” Kesha Cobb

Along with the conference, a hybrid conference was held in conjunction with educational and agricultural partners. Attendees experienced interactive presentations from experts in the field of conservation, academia, climatology, and nutrition. A TED Talk was incorporated into the conference and included speakers that compelled change and innovation in agriculture models. USDA Officials and University professionals presented to attendees with discussion panels and a virtual workshop to coincide.

Thirteen farmers created a consortium of networks across Arkansas and coordinate efforts for attendance and presentation about Black Urban Ag Models at the Innovative Ag conference. Ten farmers collaborated for an aquaponics cohort that teaches the essentials of water conservation through aquaponics in urban settings. Three University partnerships were created with the partnering organization The Sustainability Project for black farmers who want to initiate innovative, climate-smart growing practices.

There were several black urban growers in attendance at the conference an on virtual meetings that expressed the barriers that they face with Urban Ag and initiating innovative models in their community. Due to these barriers, their communities suffer more from the food desert effect and may have higher rates of crime, blight, homelessness and other socio-economic issues. These producers being able to grow effectively where they are will allow them to be industrious, generate income, and feed their families and communities more efficiently.

Cobb also launched the Arkansas agriculture tour focused on urban agriculture and conservation, had an urban agriculture field day for small farms in her backyard farm. They also visited a small senior citizen garden and a 20-acre church farm building relationships.

The Innovative Urban Ag Project is an educational campaign that harnesses technology and the latest growing practices in urban agriculture and beyond to deliver higher food production in smaller spaces with a net zero carbon footprint as a goal. In tandem with this two-year project, there will be an educational, interactive mobile app that keeps growers updated and engaged through the process of achieving this goal. To elevate the experience of the project, an annual conference will be held to bring it all together as a mecca of all things ag advancement.

For more information on this project EDS23-055 or others, visit projects.sare.org.

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Topics: Farmer to Farmer, Urban Agriculture
Related Locations: Arkansas, South