Training MS Farmers and Producers with Alternative Farming Practices Including Intercropping

Final report for EDS21-31

Project Type: Education Only
Funds awarded in 2021: $50,000.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2023
Grant Recipient: Mileston Cooperative Association
Region: Southern
State: Mississippi
Principal Investigator:
Calvin Head
Mileston Cooperative Association
Tom Collins
West Holmes Community Development Organization (WHCDO)
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Project Information


The name of the organization is the Mileston Cooperative Association (A.A.L.) hereafter referred to as MCA. Established in 1942, MCA is one of the oldest Co-ops still in existence  The purpose of MCA is to provide fruits, vegetables and other consumer good sand services to its members and the community-at-large. The MCA is located in western rural Holmes County. Holmes County  is situated in the center of the state and in the midst of the Delta and is geographically and economically isolated.This project  we will specifically design to  target black farmers and educate them on the concept of inter-crop.
Like other Delta communities, Holmes County has followed a path of economic decline. For example, manufacturing employment in Holmes County fell from 1,021 in 1980 to 624 in 2012. Overall, private non-farm employment in Holmes County decreased by 14% from 2012 to 2015 according to the Delta Council’s 2016 Economic Progress Report. Holmes County is one of the poorest counties in the nation with high unemployment
rates. As it is known, unemployment puts health at risk, and the risk is higher in regions where unemployment is widespread.

The Mileston Cooperative is a group of African American farmers based in Holmes County, MS that has been operational since 1942. Co-op members have expressed interest in moving toward sustainable agriculture, in widening their food distribution networks, and increasing the workforce of farmers. The mission of the MCA is to enhance the quality of life and health for low-income citizens through economic and community development initiatives.

MCA has technical expertise in farming and agriculture, and an active membership base of farmers who are eager for new ways to bring their goods to market, and to increase the trained workforce in sustainable growing practices.

Our goal is to train participants on principled business practices; to promote fairness, participation, and empowerment in the workplace and the community; to work to encourage and implement appropriate environmental practices that will promote awareness about food, nutrition, health, and cooperative values.  The proposed project activities shall provide technical assistance through experiential learning. A unique farming process called "alley cropping" will be the experimental learning project. Site visits will allow farmers and members of the cooperative to experience innovative controlled environment agriculture, farming systems, and cultural practices. Workshops will demonstrate and provide “hands-on” learning experience concerning fruit and vegetable production in control environment structures and under field conditions. Seminars will be conducted to provide information on economics (cost and returns) and marketing of agricultural commodities.

Specific project activities are listed below followed by specific information of projects:

Site visits to established  newly produced vegetable operations including control environment structures  (high tunnels) as listed below:
MCA has constructed 10 high tunnels through the NRCS equip program. These high tunnels are not currently in use due the lack of formal training in the efficient and effective use of the high tunnel. This project will enable participating farmers to ensure production by these structures. Resulting in extended growing season, increased farm revenue, and satisfying market demand.

Project Objectives:


1. Provide and coordinate technical assistance for 50 farmers. Including business planning services, marketing, and business information assistance, and increase profitability.

2. Farmer farmer-led training to take of advantage of soil, climate, and water resources  and high tunnel usage, will provide the impetus for long-range improvement in the economic outlook, 4 learning journeys, 6 site visits, 6 field days, and 10 workshops will be part of the implementation process.

3. Agriculturists will establish large scale controlled environment agriculture systems and fruit and nut operations. Having them learn the techniques of the high tunnel, vegetable, fruit, nut, and orchard production skills to produce production.

4. 10 Farmers will be trained in the intercropping concept.


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Dr. Bill Evans - Technical Advisor
  • Dr. Frank Matta


Educational approach:

We used printed materials, virtual training, field days, farm demonstrations, tree planting, soil analysis, and farm demonstration. 

Educational & Outreach Activities

5 Consultations
6 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
6 On-farm demonstrations
2 Published press articles, newsletters
6 Tours
10 Webinars / talks / presentations
8 Workshop field days
3 Other educational activities: We shared information about a variety of fruit trees grown in our region. Shared information in relation to biodynamics and regenerative farm practices. Conducted several food trainings on food safety and food defense. Soil preservation and environmental safety. Soil and water retention. Marketing and demand strategies.

Participation Summary:

70 Farmers participated
6 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

Training on fruit and tree planting techniques and vegetable production simultaneously. Training on the enhancement of farm production and management and productivity. (Busines model) Introduction to sustainable agricultural practices.


Even though we considered the project a success in terms of training in subject matter information to at least 60 farmers, we were met with several challenges and hardships. Consequently, the project was not fully implemented. Due in large part to the impact of COVID-19, inclement weather patterns and environmental issues. Several key participants passed away, and three years of flooding, drought, and crop dusting led to severe crop and tree loss as part of the process. This had a negative impact on our productivity, crop growth, and development.

Learning Outcomes

5 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Key changes:
  • Tree production

  • Food safety

  • Healthy soil retention

  • Conservation/preservation

  • Marketing

Project Outcomes

7 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
1 Grant received that built upon this project
7 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

The idea was to establish new markets and new concepts that allow successful farm operations in addition to locally grown healthy and chemical-free food. For indirect and commercial sales. This project's intent was to build a farm business model creating viable processes introducing youth labor to match with individual farms.


Before introducing any farm practices or productions ensure there is a well-established market or buyer for farm production. Understand established protocols i.e. food production, food safety, marketing availability, storage, packaging etc.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.