VSU Cooperative Extension Programs Go Virtual

Specialty crop Extension specialist Dr. Reza Rafie conducts research on more than 39 varieties of blueberry bushes at Virginia State University's Randolph Farm in Ettrick. He shares the information he gathers with the public through events like this Thursday's virtual Blueberry Field Walk through Facebook Live

Annual Blueberry Field Walk at university’s Randolph Farm to be delivered through Facebook Live this Thursday, March 26, at 4 p.m. New format allows Extension faculty to reach global audiences, while practicing necessary social-distancing COVID-19 precautions.

To continue providing the public with research-based information that keeps them safe, healthy and informed, Virginia Cooperative Extension is turning to digital methods for public outreach.

Virginia Cooperative Extension is managed through the Commonwealth’s two land-grant universities, Virginia State University (VSU) and Virginia Tech.

VSU Extension faculty are offering their first on-line-only public program this Thursday, March 26, at 4 p.m. through Facebook Live. The annual Blueberry Field Walk will be conducted by specialty crop Extension specialist Dr. Reza Rafie. Facebook Live was selected as the digital platform to conduct this program because: it is accessible to anyone with a smartphone or a computer; participants do not need to have a Facebook account; the public can ask questions in real-time by typing them into the session; and the live program can be recorded, close-captioned and posted on the VSU Cooperative Extension website (ext.vsu.edu) with additional resources on the subject.

During the Facebook Live event Rafie will walk through VSU's Randolph Farm blueberry fields and high tunnel, where a collection of 39 different cultivars are under study. All are different in terms of productivity, time of maturity, plant structure, fruit size, bush size, vigor, etc. This program provides an excellent opportunity to learn about these cultivars and ask questions in real time to help growers decide which ones may be best for their needs.

Blueberry is the fastest growing berry crop in many states including North Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Market demand for blueberry continues to grow, and profit potential for growing locally grown blueberry is considerable. One major issue for blueberry growers is the planting of the new blueberry cultivars (varieties) that are becoming available with superior fruit size, taste, color, and pest and disease tolerance.

For more information, or if you are a person with a disability and desire any assistive devices, services or other accommodations to participate in this activity, contact Mark Klingman from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at (804) 524-5493 / TDD (800) 828-1120 or mjklingman@vsu.edu 48 hours before the start of the program. A recorded version of the program with close captioning will be available on Rafie’s webpage (https://www.ext.vsu.edu/horticulture) by the end of the following week.

Virginia Cooperative Extension programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, veteran status, or any other basis protected by law. An equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.