Montagnards Agriculture

N.C. A&T partners with local Montagnard group

An agriculture research project at North Carolina A&T State University will establish recommendations for small-scale urban vegetable production for the Piedmont. The project is an innovative partnership between N.C. A&T’s School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences and a Montagnard group.

SAES researchers will experiment with vegetable production using cover crops, compost, minimal tillage or no tillage and other soil conservation practices appropriate for the region.

Concurrently, the Women’s Learning Group, a Montagnard grassroots organization, will cultivate the same vegetables utilizing their approaches to gardening. They tend to rely on conventional practices, including tilling the soil and using commercial fertilizers and pesticides, explained Dr. Charles Raczkowski, a professor of soil science in the department of natural resources and environmental design and lead investigator for the research.

The partnership between A&T and the Montagnards was facilitated by Guilford College’s Bonner Center for Community Service and Learning.

"We said, ‘Let’s show them how we grow things, and let’s have a site for them where they can grow things their own way, and we’ll observe,’" Raczkowski says.

"And then we have same size of site right next to theirs at the University Farm, where we will prepare it with the concept of soil conservation and show them that you can grow crops that way.”

Data will be collected during the three-year project to evaluate and compare soil quality parameters, yields, and economic viability of both plots. The research team also will be adapting lawn and turf equipment for use in small-scale vegetable production.

“The main purpose is to show that these practices can be performed on a small scale and to help the community understand the benefit of compost and cover crops,” Raczkowski said.

“We have really enjoyed working with the Montagnard group. We’re also learning a lot from them as well.”

Montagnards are immigrants from the highlands of Vietnam, where they fought alongside U.S. troops during the war. They live in a close-knit community in Greensboro. The city is home to the largest Montagnard community outside Vietnam.

The project is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It meshes with school of agriculture’s Local Food and Health Initiative, which focuses on helping build a local food infrastructure to address food insecurity and health disparities in the region and beyond.