SIKESTON, Mo. — A student-oriented vegetable demonstration garden is now open at Southeast Missouri State University’s Sikeston campus for those in the region to learn more about the range of Bootheel produce supplying fresh markets worldwide.
Thanks to a partnership between Southeast Missouri State University and Lincoln University’s Cooperative Extension and with assistance from a $28,301 USDA grant, a high tunnel has been installed just north of the Southeast Sikeston Campus, where students will grow a variety of summer and fall vegetables commonly produced in the region, including squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, peanuts, black-eyed peas and sweet corn, among others.
In addition, an open-air, one-acre vegetable field will be planted adjacent to the tunnel where students will plant squash, eggplant, watermelons, cucumbers, okra, cowpeas, beets, tomatoes and other vegetables with multiple varieties from around the world.
The USDA grant, titled “Organic and Specialty Horticulture as a Pathway for Small Producer Independence,” will be used to promote vegetable production of “local foods” for small-acreage entrepreneurs, and cowpeas will be developed as a producer option for export. Cowpeas are dry beans commonly grown in Mexico, Central America and elsewhere.
“The prospect of exporting cowpeas is very large as the demand is rapidly growing,” said Dr. Mike Aide, Southeast professor of agriculture. “Cowpeas may be planted, maintained and harvested with the same equipment as soybeans.”
Aide and Byron McVay of Southeast Missouri State University’s Department of Agriculture are spearheading the initiative.
This summer, a Southeast undergraduate agriculture major will assist with the demonstration garden. Aide said harvested vegetables will be donated to local food banks.
Several Southeast agriculture classes will be involved with the project beginning next fall as part of a plant science lab, Aide said.