EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (November 14, 2023) – North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University leaders, elected officials, faculty, staff and project team members picked up shovels and officially broke ground on the Urban and Community Food Complex , the latest expansion of the university’s 492-acre farm.
NC A&T Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr., NC Senator Gladys Robinson, Greensboro City Councilman Hugh Holston, A&T Board of Trustees Chair Kim Gatling and Venu Kalavacharla, Ph.D., Associate Director of the National Institute of Ministry of of U.S. Food and Agriculture, were joined by Interim Dean of the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences Shirley Hyman-Parker, Interim Head of Farm Daniel Cooper, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Tonya Smith-Jackson and other university leaders for the event.
Watch the video: https://youtu.be/pX4hijD8AAs
“This new facility is expected to support the economic revitalization of East Greensboro by stimulating food and agribusiness entrepreneurship,” Martin said. “There needs to be an engine to promote access to nutritious, fresh food in the East Greensboro area. As the largest college of agriculture in the nation’s largest HBCU (historically black college or university), we have a responsibility to be that engine.”
The complex, which has been planned for more than 15 years, is designed to be part small business incubator, part research and engagement facility, Hyman-Parker said.
“In this building, food entrepreneurs will be able to explore and test their business ideas with the help of college faculty and Cooperative Extension specialists,” she said. “Students will be able to learn from an integrated curriculum spanning animal science, food science and nutrition to agribusiness. The complex will expand the college’s capabilities in all three mission areas: research, teaching and outreach.”
Robinson, whose district includes Guilford County, and Holston praised the farm’s scope as a research and teaching facility and noted its potential as an economic engine for East Greensboro.
“It’s so important,” Robinson said. “This whole lot — the pavilion, the student and community farm, the research complex — adds value not only to NC A&T and the city of Greensboro, but to the state of North Carolina.”
Included in the $12 million building, nearly 15,000 square feet will be a sensory lab to conduct consumer research; post-harvest physiological laboratory for examination of harvested products; food processing laboratory, commercial kitchen and food safety laboratory. Blue Cross and Blue Shield Awardee Professor Hao Feng, Ph.D., will lead the facility.
But its signature feature will be cream, allowing the farm to produce Aggie ice cream for the first time since the 1960s, when the university farm produced much of the food served on campus.
“We are the last HBCU with a dairy,” Hyman-Parker said. “Our A2A2 Jersey cows produce milk that is easier to tolerate and using their milk we will bring back Aggie Ice Cream, the ultimate sweet treat, for sale and for visitors. Our students will help shape the product, design flavors and packaging.”
Slated to open in 2025, the facility is the fourth in a series of projects designed to provide greater community access, student involvement and faculty utility at the farm, which supports research projects, teaching and outreach, through the A&T division for NC Cooperative Extension.
Previous projects include the Student Farm, the Community Farm and the $6 million University Farm Pavilion, which opened in 2021.
“I’ve been dreaming of a facility like this,” Kalavacharla said. “And with your leadership, dean and provost, it happened here.”
Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr. addresses the crowd at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Urban and Community Food Complex.