CESTA puts the ‘A’ in FAMU

Known for its research in scientific studies, the College of Engineering Sciences, Technology and Agriculture (CESTA) continues to strive for perfection.

However, when it comes to the agricultural side of the school, some students and alumni have pondered just how relevant those respective studies really are.

As the dean of CESTA, Makola Abdullah, 39, said the agricultural side of the school is indeed very vital. In fact, the Chicago native said CESTA provides more than just the respective “A” in FAMU – but the “M” too.

“There isn’t another college in Florida A&M that has the kind of rich history that we have,” said Abdullah, who has been the dean of the schoool since January 2008. “One of the things that students usually ask is what we have to offer. We offer food and agricultural, which is a life long trend. It’s a human trend and it will always be needed. The university carries our name and we’re very proud of that.”

According to its webpage, CESTA is the land-grant arm of the university, which earned the “A” when the school was added to FAMU’s roster in 1891. In 1862, the federal government allotted land to the states for the sole purpose of starting college programs in agricultural sciences. To that end, CESTA has taken full advantage of its agricultural resources.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, agricultural products can be broken down into categories consisting of foods, fibers, fuels, raw materials and pharmaceuticals. Information found on the website states the value of production on vegetables in the year 2007 was $1,301,770 thousand, which proves that the industry is indeed very active.

CESTA’s Division of Agriculture features fields of study in Landscape Design and Management, Food Science, Ornamental Horticulture, and Agricultural Business. The school is also in charge of the community gardens, an area of land in Tallahassee’s south side district where individuals can grow vegetables.

The community gardens is something that Oghenekome U. Onokpise, the school’s associate dean, said he is very satisfied with.

“The area belongs to CESTA and it is a part of our extension program,” said Onokpise, 57. “It is a way by which we serve the community. Any member of the community who is interested in having a garden can come in and pay a $10 fee and get a 10-by-10 foot garden to grow vegetables. It’s a good service to the community.”

Currently, the school has a flagship program specializing in viticulture and small food research with a goal to help develop the agricultural industry in Florida. The program’s researchers have been conducting examinations on grapes in an attempt to make them more suitable for changing climates and better for mass production. This only goes to prove that the agricultural side of CESTA is very much still intact and Onokpise couldn’t agree more.

“The ‘A’ is as relevant as it was a hundred and twenty something years ago as it is today, tomorrow and forever,” Onokpise said. “Whether you’re talking about just conventional food, this is the college. Whether you’re talking about new technology or even globalization, it is all available in this college.”

Marcitta Barrington is of the same opinion. A student majoring in animal science, Barrington, 24, said CESTA is very exceptional.

“CESTA is a wonderful school,” said Barrington, a resident of Stone Mountain, Ga. “I don’t think a lot of students know that we put the ‘A’ in FAMU. Agriculture is important because it helps the world to survive. We wouldn’t be able to eat without it.”

As far as Abdullah is concerned, agricultural research will never go out of style. He said CESTA will continue to strive for perfection and that the “A” in FAMU will always remain important.

“Agriculture is the number two economic indicator in the state of Florida and is almost a hundred billion dollar industry in the United States of America,” Abdullah said. “The ‘A’ in FAMU will always be relevant. Agriculture and food is something that will always be needed. Our challenge is to let students know that.”