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UVI Joins AgDiscovery Network of Summer Programs

ces image of live stock, tractors and agriculture products

The University of the Virgin Islands has been selected to join the AgDiscovery network of educational institutions that offer a federally funded residential summer program.  This network will introduce middle and high school students to the world of agricultural science. The opportunity was made possible by an agreement between the Cooperative Extension Services (UVICES) and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) to cooperatively fund the two-week camp.  

“We are looking forward to hosting our first camp at the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix,” said Dr. Louis E. Petersen, the St. Thomas/St. John assistant director of the CES Service. “The program will take place from Aug. 1-13, and we are preparing to host 20 students.”

AgDiscovery started as a veterinary services pilot program in 2002. Now the program partners with 20 universities nationwide to offer students a chance to explore careers in animal science, veterinary medicine, agribusiness, plant pathology, aquaculture and more.  It allows participants to experience living on a college campus, and to learn about agricultural science from university professors and other agricultural professionals.  All expenses except travel to and from the host university are covered by a grant from APHIS, and any student with U.S. citizenship may apply to any program within the network. 

Although every AgDiscovery program is special in its own way, the one on St. Croix will be particularly unique because of its Caribbean location.  “This will be reflected in the varieties of crops and breeds of livestock studied,” said Dr. Petersen.  “For example, the Senepol breed of cattle and the St. Croix Hair sheep will be highlighted during the two week course.  Additionally, visits are scheduled to crop farms and the Saturday farmer’s market to introduce participants to local and popular varieties of fruits such as the Julie Mango.   Another unique feature of our program will be the world-class aquaponics research program, which is conducted at the Agricultural Experiment Station.” 

Substantive elements of the program will be facilitated by the CES and the Agricultural Experiment Station (AES), with special guidance from Station Director and Professor of Animal Science, Dr. Robert Godfrey.  The AES staff will deliver many of the camp presentations, which will include introductions to careers in agriculture, animal science, aquaponics, and biotechnology.  “We are excited about this partnership with the Agricultural Experiment Station, and this exposure is critical as we continuously seek to prepare the next generation of farmers and agricultural professionals,” said Dr. Petersen.  “The average age range of farmers and agricultural professionals in the territory is 55-60 years.”

UVI’s participation in AgDiscovery will expose Virgin Islands students to a network of choices regarding summer experiences outside of the territory, along with many options for pursuing post-secondary education.  Moreover, AgDiscovery is designed to promote awareness and appreciation of cultural diversity.  The UVI program will undoubtedly offer a unique multicultural experience in a Caribbean setting. 

Applications for AgDiscovery can be downloaded from the USDA/APHIS website (https://www.aphis.usda.gov/civil_rights/downloads/Application.pdf) and must be mailed directly to APHIL, postmarked by March 7, 2016.