Two students in the Department of Agriculture at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) recently completed apprenticeships that gave them hands-on work experience.


During the summer 2019 semester, Danielle Williams, a senior agriculture business major from Atlanta, Ga., and Danielle Reed, a senior agriculture business major from Pine Bluff, were able to work closely on research and Extension projects with department faculty, earn money and learn about career opportunities in the field, according to a news release.


Williams’ apprenticeship had a focus on local food security, while Reed’s was based on irrigation and water management.


Ranjitsinh Mane, Ph.D, assistant professor of agricultural and consumer economics for UAPB and the students’ research adviser, said summer apprenticeships through the UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences (SAFHS) allow students to learn about careers in agriculture, aquaculture, natural fisheries, family and consumer sciences and community and youth development while gaining hands-on job experience employers will want to see.


“As part of this summer’s agriculture apprentice program, the students helped advance my research work on the cost-benefit analysis of irrigation and water management devices and economics of community gardens,” he said. “My goals were to familiarize them with data collection processes, as well as tools and technology commonly used on farms. I had a wonderful experience working with both of them.”


During the first phase of her apprenticeship, Reed learned how to create surveys and collect quantitative data relating to community gardens. Later, she focused on the cost-benefit analysis of irrigation water management (IWM) tools and was responsible for the development of a dataset of retail prices and costs associated with different tools.


“I was required to review multiple scholarly articles discussing the use, function and effectiveness of IWM tools,” Reed said. “After that I then used the information collected to assist in writing a journal article that explained why and how certain tools would be beneficial for irrigation on farms from an economic perspective.”


To better understand the practical application of IWM tools, she accompanied Mane on a trip to a soybean and rice farm. There, she received hands-on experience in learning how to install devices such as soil moisture sensors.


During her apprenticeship, Williams was responsible for gathering data on the funding and sustainability of over 70 community gardens across Arkansas. She also researched the motivations and beliefs of volunteers who take part in community gardens.


“Towards the end of my internship I had the chance to come up with survey questions to ask volunteers about their experience with community gardens,” she said. “Thanks to this apprenticeship, I was able to participate in graduate-like research as an undergraduate student, and I have retained valuable information that will put me ahead of my peers.”


After she finalizes the research on community gardens in Arkansas, Williams plans to present her findings during a poster presentation at the Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) Conference in the spring semester of 2020.


Mane said the efforts of both students will benefit Arkansans. The projects highlight the importance of water management tools for row crop producers and the role community gardens play in addressing food security in the state.


Reed said the apprenticeship enhanced her writing, research and analytical skills. She also appreciated the chance to work with and learn from experts in the field of agriculture.


“UAPB faculty provided guidance and helped me understand what careers may best suit me,” she said. “Thanks to Mane’s recommendation that I participate in this program, I can confidently say that I am ready to use my newly enhanced skills this school year. I hope to continue to enhance my skillset for future use in my career before I graduate in May.”


Williams said the new knowledge and skills she gained as result of the apprenticeship go a long way in furthering her undergraduate experience.


The summer apprenticeship program is open to all UAPB students, though SAFHS majors will receive top priority in the application process. To learn more about how to apply for the apprenticeship, students can contact Dr. Marilyn Bailey at (870) 575-7214 or baileym@uapb.edu.


The program is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Evans-Allen Research Program and 1890 Extension Programs.


The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff offers all of its Extension and Research programs and services without discrimination.


— Will Hehemann is a writer/editor at the UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences.