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NMC Soil & Water Conservation Workshop a Big Success (March 5, 2009)

The Northern Marianas College Cooperative Research, Extension and Education Services’ (NMC-CREES) workshop on Soil & Water Conservation through Innovative Farming Techniques held earlier this week at the NMC-CREES Experimental Farm in As Perdido drew a crowd of 66 participants, as well as 82 students from William S. Reyes Elementary School.

The workshop, funded by a grant from United States Department of Agriculture National Resources Conservation Services, was aimed at introducing farmers to new methods of raising production and profitability while conserving natural resources. NMC-CREES had been working on developing and refining these methods over the last three years, and the workshop provided the outlet to present many of the findings.

“We chose to present the workshop at our Experimental Farm to give the farmers a hands-on experience with our methods,” says program leader Lee Bowen, who is contracted by NMC-CREES as an agricultural consultant. “Farmers seemingly enjoyed the informal setting.”

The farming techniques the participants learned about were contour farming with vetiver hedge rows, micro irrigation, no-till farming, mulching, alley farming, and tree/shrub intercropping. All of these techniques have the goal of not only conserving water and soil in the CNMI, but also of helping the farmer save money on fertilizer and labor.

Arnold Route, NMC-CREES' Pesticide Safety Education Coordinator introduced the farmers to his Botanical Pesticide project and gave out neem trees with which the pesticide is made.

The highlight of the program was the Sweet Potato Taste Testing, which gave the farmers a taste of sweet potato varieties NMC-CREES is attempting to introduce to the CNMI. According to Dr. Dilip Nandwani, NMC CREES plant pathologist, the taste sessions are important to collect data on which sweet potato variety would be the ideal one in regard to marketability and taste.

“The public has to decide which ones they like most,” Nandwani adds.

In her welcoming speech, NMC Community Programs and Services Dean Felicitas Abraham praised NMC-CREES for their ongoing efforts to host workshops that help our farmers maximize profits and, at the same, conserve the scarce resources for the enrichment of the CNMI.

NMC-CREES officials were also pleased with the interest the workshop sparked in William S. Reyes Elementary students. Eighty-two students walked to the workshop and were treated to their own special tour around the farm. After two hours, they left with new knowledge on farming and bellies full of popcorn. Additionally, the students were given two neem trees, which they plan to plant at their school's own farm plot. Bowens hoped that the students' visit “sparked the interest to become farmers or scientists in some of the students.”

Anyone not able to participate in the workshop is invited to call the NMC-CREES main office at 234-5498, ext. 1707 to make an appointment with CREES staff for a guided tour around the Experimental Farm.

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