STORY BY Allison "A.J." Sabine
While Dr. Adell Brown takes pride in his new job as chancellor of Southern University’s Ag Center, he first thinks of himself as a farmer.
Brown replaced long-time chancellor Dr. Leodrey Williams, who retired July 1 after more than 50 years of service. Brown himself has served for 39 years with deep roots in agriculture. Those roots, he said, are foremost on his mind in replacing who he describes as a legend.
“(Before coming to Southern), Dr. Williams was actually working with LSU as the civil rights coordinator,” Brown said. “In leadership, there is always the notion that it’s almost impossible to follow a legend. So, that part brings a little anxiety but at the same time, I’ve been tracking with him for the last 30 years, so I feel that those experiences I’ve had following him will pay dividends as we move forward.”
Brown got his start in 1976 as an assistant county agent in St. Landry Parish, but started long before then in ag as a small farmer from Gilbert, La. In preparation for the fall semester, he is working his executive staff on a new grant benefitting a nearby neighborhood. His background shows as he outlines how urban agriculture is the next frontier. “People will come back and they want to do the organic, they want to do urban agriculture, but there are a lot of questions associated with doing it in order that they would be successful,” Brown said. “That’s our opportunity. How do you farm and how do you make it congruent and line up with city life? How do you make sure that the environmental conditions are taken care of?
“How do you just co-exist in the urban community and keep your food safe, clean and not have city people throw you out?” he continued. “Those are the questions that Southern must ask and answer through our research and extension program going forward.”
Dr. Brown earned a doctorate in agricultural economics from LSU, a MBA from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and a bachelor of science in agricultural business from ULM, formerly known as Northwest Louisiana University.
Moving the ag center forward while maintaining his commitment to small, socially or economically-disadvantaged farmers lies at the heart of Brown’s new role as chancellor. Despite the specter of cuts to higher education, Brown says he hopes to get the best out of everyone, even with a shrinking budget.
“I grew up in a land of scarcity” Brown said. “I mean we were poor. My uncles and my dad always told me that if you make a dollar you ought to be able to save a quarter. I want to make certain that my hallmark is to maximize on the resources we do have to make sure that are doing the very best we can with every nickel we have.”
Maximizing those ‘nickels’ with external funding sources such as grants is part of Brown’s fundraising focus. The patience with tough circumstances sewn in Gilbert has yielded to an ability for careful planning as an ag economist while maintaining enthusiasm in his new role.
“I’m always thinking about the next hurdle, the next horizon, the next frontier.” Brown said. “I think that as exciting as it is and should be, I’m mostly concerned about however long my watch is, however long this journey is, that I do the very best that I can do.”
In the immediate future, Dr. Brown has planned a national town hall meeting in December on Twitter focused on the importance of agriculture. More information can be found on the website at http://www.suagcenter.com/ or Twitter, @suagcenter.