Soil Health Institute Engages Students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities to Promote Greater Equity in Sustainable Agriculture Through Internship Program

Students Hail From Alcorn State University, Fort Valley State University, North Carolina A&T State University, Prairie View A&M University, and University of Minnesota Twin Cities

For Immediate Release

Morrisville, North Carolina – June 13, 2022 – The Soil Health Institute (SHI) today announced the first U.S. Regenerative Cotton Fund (USRCF) internship class. The USRCF Internship Program is dedicated to establishing career paths for underrepresented students, empowering them to obtain decision-making positions in U.S. agriculture. Launched with a founding grant from the Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation in 2021 as an ambitious effort to put growers at the center of creating a sustainable future for U.S. cotton production, the USRCF is a farmer-facing, science-based initiative to support long-term, sustainable cotton production in the United States, with the goal of eliminating one million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) from the atmosphere by 2026.

“We are pleased to announce this inaugural class of interns for the U.S. Regenerative Cotton Fund,” said Dr. Loutrina Staley, soil scientist and director of diversity, equity, and inclusion at the Soil Health Institute. “These students are the future of agriculture. They will be an integral part of our work to stand up the USRCF. At the Soil Health Institute, we are deeply committed to current and future generations, and empowering historically underrepresented communities.”

“As a founding member of the U.S. Regenerative Cotton Fund, it was important to us to champion equity in the program and create opportunities for Black students in climate-smart, regenerative agriculture,” said Roseann Lynch, Ralph Lauren Corporation’s Chief People Officer and Head of the Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation. “We look forward to welcoming this inaugural class of talented students into this important work.”

Since its launch, the USRCF has been recognized as an AIM for Climate Innovation Sprint Partner at the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference, and has received additional support from industry leaders, including the VF Foundation, which has joined the USRCF as a Sustaining Supporter, and Levi Strauss & Co, which has joined as a Contributing Supporter.

“We are proud to support the USRCF and the expansion of the Soil Health Institute’s Internship Program to advance diversity and inclusion in sustainable agriculture,” said Gloria Schoch, Executive Director, The VF Foundation and Director of Global Impact, VF Corporation. “Providing access and education to students enrolled in HBCUs to help them excel in their careers is vital to successfully expand regenerative practices and ultimately mitigate climate change.”

The 2022 summer intern class includes scholars from Alcorn State University, Fort Valley State University, North Carolina A&T State University, and University of Minnesota Twin Cities. In addition, a student from Prairie View A&M University is returning to the Institute as an employee after serving as an intern in 2021. All students will work alongside SHI scientists and educators in one or more programs, including Soil Health and Carbon Targets, Soil Health Education, Soil Microbiome Research, and Soil Health Economics. As part of their internship, students will engage cotton farmers, advisors, and other stakeholders to increase adoption of regenerative soil health systems in an effort to bring resilience and profitability benefits to farmers, while also seeking to mitigate climate change and promote other environmental benefits.

To learn more about the U.S. Regenerative Cotton Fund and the Internship Program, visit or contact Byron Rath at

Meet the 2022 Summer Interns and Employees:

  • Ronnie Bernard is an undergraduate student majoring in agriculture with a concentration in environmental science at Alcorn State University. He has received various scholarships from the university, is a member of the 1890 Scholars Program and a Cargill Thrive Scholar awardee. Mr. Bernard plans to become an environmental scientist.
  • Ahmad Harden is an undergraduate student majoring in agricultural economics at Fort Valley State University, where he is a Presidential Student Ambassador and a “Blue Coat” Ambassador, assisting with the university’s advancement program. Mr. Harden was awarded a full academic scholarship from USDA and plans to become an agricultural economist.
  • Jordan Kelly is an undergraduate student majoring in sustainable land management and food systems at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. She is a member of MANNRS, Future Farmers of America, and a Norman E. Borlaug Scholar awardee. Ms. Kelly plans to become an environmental scientist.
  • Tiffany LaShae is a graduate student at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, where she is conducting a study integrating soil health and soil stories of African American farmers in the Southeast U.S. Tiffany is a farmer, activist and educator with over 10 years of experience working with farmers in the U.S. and abroad. She currently manages a small, diversified vegetable/seed production farm that demonstrates soil health practices and provides hands-on education for beginning farmers. Tiffany’s work also includes collaborative projects addressing inequities in farmer resource utilization and access with the Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service, and in climate smart agriculture efforts with USAID farmer-to-farmer organizations based in Africa.
  • Quanteria Randle is an undergraduate student majoring in biology at Prairie View A&M University. In 2021, Ms. Randle interned with SHI’s Soil Microbiome Scientist, Dr. Elizabeth Rieke, analyzing phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) data from soils sampled across North America. She presented those results at the American Society of Agronomy & Soil Science Society of America international meeting in Salt Lake City, UT. Ms. Randle plans to become a soil microbiologist.
  • Jhacolby Williams is an undergraduate student majoring in agriculture with a concentration in environmental science at Alcorn State University. Mr. Williams, a member of the Honors Program and Future Farmers of America, has a full scholarship from the university. He plans to become an environmental scientist.

About the U.S. Regenerative Cotton Fund

The USRCF is a unique, farmer-facing, science-based initiative of the Soil Health Institute that supports long-term, sustainable cotton production in the United States, with the goal of eliminating one million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent from the atmosphere by 2026. The Fund was initiated with a founding grant from the Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation in 2021. Since its launch, the VF Foundation and Levi Strauss & Co. have joined the USRCF as Sustaining and Contributing Partners, respectively. Participating partners currently include Cotton Incorporated, National Cotton Council, and Field to Market.

About the Soil Health Institute

The Soil Health Institute is a global non-profit with a mission of safeguarding and enhancing the vitality and productivity of soils through scientific research and advancement. Our vision is a world where farmers and ranchers grow quality food, fiber, and fuel using soil health systems that sustain farms and rural communities, promote a stable climate and clean environment, and improve human health and well-being. Accordingly, the Institute brings together leaders in soil health science and the industry to conduct research and empower farmers and other landowners with the knowledge to successfully adopt regenerative soil health systems that contribute economic and environmental benefits to agriculture and society. The Institute’s scientific team holds doctorates in various soil science and related disciplines, with specialties in carbon cycling, nutrient cycling, water cycling, nutrient management, soil microbiome, farmer/adviser education, ecosystem services, soil-plant relationships, on-farm economics, and others. The team follows a comprehensive strategy for advancing adoption of regenerative soil health systems, as briefly described in this 5-minute video.

Healthy soils are the foundation for restoring our land. Together, we can create a secure future for all, mitigate the effects of climate change, and help farmers and organizations meet production and environmental goals at scale. Visit to learn more, and follow us on YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

About the Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation

The Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation works to make the dream of a better life reality by championing equity and empowering underserved communities around the world. Established in 2001, the Foundation is committed to making a difference across its core areas of focus: supporting cancer care and prevention, protecting the environment, fostering advocacy & access and strengthening community resilience. It hopes to deliver meaningful change in its communities through its nonprofit partnerships, investments and volunteering programs. For more information, please visit:

About the VF Foundation

The VF Foundation is the private grantmaking organization funded by VF Corporation, one of the world’s largest apparel, footwear and accessories companies with iconic outdoor, active and workwear brands including Vans®, The North Face®, Timberland®, Smartwool®, JanSport® and Dickies®. With its partners, The VF Foundation strives to innovate and problem-solve in collaborative ways to drive transformative, lasting change with the vision of creating a more equitable and sustainable world. Established in 2002, the Foundation has granted nearly $60 million globally to meaningfully improve the communities where VF operates. It’s committed to driving movements for the betterment of people and the planet across its key strategic pillars: championing Worthy Work, embracing Outside Matters, empowering creativity and self-expression as we are Free to Be, and supporting Disaster Relief and Recovery. Learn more at

About Levi Strauss & Co.

Levi Strauss & Co. (LS&Co.) is one of the world’s largest brand-name apparel companies and a global leader in jeanswear. The Company designs and markets jeans, casual wear and related accessories for men, women and children under the Levi’s®, Signature by Levi Strauss & Co.™, Denizen®, Dockers® and Beyond Yoga® brands. Its products are sold in more than 110 countries worldwide through a combination of chain retailers, department stores, online sites, and a global footprint of approximately 3,100 retail stores and shop-in-shops. Levi Strauss & Co.’s reported 2021 net revenues were $5.8 billion. For more information, go to, and for financial news and announcements go to

Media Contacts
Soil Health Institute
Lauren Rivers

Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation

VF Foundation
Colin Wheeler
Vice President,
Corporate Affairs & Communications

Levi Strauss & Co Media Contact
Kylie Grader