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2019-2-18

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Reading across the Community

Reading is important. The One World Literacy Foundation explains, “Reading is how we discover new things and how we develop a positive self-image. The ability to read is a vital skill in being able to function in today's society. Reading is important because it helps to expand the mind and develops the imagination.”

Echoing these sentiments, popular author Neil Gaiman says, “Literacy is more important than ever it was, in this world of text and email, a world of written information. We need to read and write, we need global citizens who can read comfortably, comprehend what they are reading, understand nuance, and make themselves understood.”

The National Endowment for the Arts notes, “Literature inspires, enriches, educates, and entertains. It reminds us that there is beauty and joy in language, that others have insights worth paying attention to, that in our struggles we are not alone.” Furthermore, NEA cites scientific evidence confirming that reading for pleasure reduces stress, improves empathy, helps students achieve better test sores, slows the onset of dementia, and encourages citizens to become more active and aware.

To support all these benefits, and in conjunction with its own Quality Enhancement Plan, “iRead, iLead, iSucceed: A Commitment to Literacy,”  Southside Virginia Community College applied for NEA grant funding to conduct an NEA Big Read program across the communities in our service area. Through a competitive process, the SVCC was selected as one of 75 applicants representing institutions across the nation to receive an award.

The title chosen for SVCC’s NEA Big Read is A Lesson before Dying by Earnest J. Gaines. Set in Louisiana during the 1940s, the novel tells the story of a young, uneducated black man who has been incarcerated and sentenced to death for his alleged participation in the murder of a white storekeeper. A college-educated black man who teaches in a nearby plantation school befriends him. Together, both men search for ways to live with dignity.

SVCC’s NEA Big Read program is currently in full swing, and I’d like to invite you to participate in a book discussion and one of the slated special events. Here’s a sampling: A panel discussion will be held at the Robert Russa Moton Museum in Farmville on February 21, 2019 beginning at 5:30 p.m. A movie adaptation of the book, starring Cicely Tyson, Mekhi Phifer, and Don Cheadle, will be shown at the Brunswick County Library in Lawrenceville on March 11, 2019 at 6:00 p.m. The Longwood University Jazz band will present a concert of songs related to the book and time period at SVCC’s Daniel Campus in Keysville on March 26, 2019 at 5:00 p.m. For more details and additional information, visit SVCC’s website at www.southside.edu.

Dr. Al Roberts is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the city of Emporia. He can be reached via email at al.roberts@southside.edu.

As More Va. Farmers Grow Flowers, VSU’s Cooperative Extension Program Positions Them For Success

Cut flowers—the kind you can pick up at the grocery store or are found on many restaurant tables—is part of the “green industry,” the fastest growing sector in U.S. agriculture and the second most important in terms of economic impact, according to the USDA. “People don’t often think of farmers growing flowers, but the cut flower industry is significant in Virginia,and is often an excellent source of income for farmers with small acreage,” said Susan Cheek, Virginia State University (VSU) Small Farm Outreach Program (SFOP) agriculture management agent. 

To meet the demand for knowledge and training in this growing industry, the SFOP, part of the Virginia Cooperative Extension program at VSU, is hosting its second cut flow growers conference in as many years. The conference is one of close to 200 programs the Cooperative Extension program offers through VSU to assist small, limited-resource, socially disadvantaged and military veteran farmers and ranchers across Va. to own, maintain and operate farms and ranches independently. 

This year’s conference will be held March 13-14 at the Fredericksburg Expo & Conference Center, 2371 Carl D. Silver Parkway, Fredericksburg, Va. The theme is “Beyond the Bouquet.” 

“We are excited to host this conference again in 2019. Our 2018 conference reached capacity quickly, and we know that small farmers in Virginia and across the U.S. are extremely interested in learning how to incorporate locally grown flowers and herbs into their farm operations,” said SFOP Director William Crutchfield.

Per acre, flowers are one of the most profitable crops to grow, and they are especially suited to small farm operations. A 2014 University of Wyoming Extension publication indicated specialty cut flowers achieved gross yields as high as $25,000 or $30,000 per acre. At the 2019 Cut Flower Growers Conference, attendees will learn more about the positive results they can get from starting a cut-flower growing operation or adding cut flowers to their current farm products—not only for their profit margin, but for the benefit of human health, insect and wildlife habitat, and the environment.

The two-day conference will bring together new and experienced growers, buyers and representatives from government agencies to help attendees learn how to improve the production and marketability of a cut flower farm business. Local and national growers will explain how to build relationships with wholesale and retail buyers; provide tips for growing and marketing pollinator-beneficial plants and flowers; and share insights about establishing a high tunnel operation to extend the growing season. Participants will also learn how to add value and profit with herbs and medicinals, and see hands-on demonstrations for floral design with native wildflowers and herbs. 

In the opening keynote, Brent Heath, owner of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in Gloucester, Va., will discuss best bulbs for cut flowers selected for longevity of blooms, ease of harvest and added value of fragrance. In the closing keynote, Dave Dowling will share his experiences and insights from 20 years of cut flower farming and five years as a sales rep and advisor to cut flower farmers. Dowling is employed by New Jersey-based Fred C. Gloeckner & Company, Inc., a horticulture wholesale distributor.

Registration is $150 per person, with a 10 percent discount for groups of three or more. To register, visit www.ext.vsu.edu/calendar, click on the event and then click on the registration link.

Persons needing further information or have a disability and desire any assistive devices, services or other accommodations to participate in this activity, can contact the VSU Small Farm Outreach Program office at smallfarm@vsu.edu or call (804) 524-3292 / (800) 828-1120 (TDD) during business hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to discuss accommodations no later than five days prior to the event.

The SFOP provides outreach and assistance activities in production management, financial management, marketing, available USDA farm programs and other areas to increase farm profitability and promote sustainability. It has recently added an additional 10 counties, bringing the total it serves to 74. It has also hired additional agriculture management agents and offers public events across the state. For more information, visit https://www.ext.vsu.edu/small-farm-outreach-program/.

Extension is a joint program of Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and state and local governments. 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. VSU is 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.

 

Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative Donates to Southside Virginia Community College

Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative (MEC) donated a  a 2004 GMC truck to assist with training of future technicians through the automotive program at Southside Virginia Community College (SVCC). According to Jeremy Parenti, the lead instructor, “The donation of this truck helps to round out our fleet of vehicles allowing our students to have hands-on training in a variety of vehicle types.” Participating in the delivery are (from left) Kris Newcomb and Ray DeJarnette of MEC and Jeremy Parenti and Chad Patton of SVCC.

Law Would Protect Elderly Against Financial Crimes

Assembly OKs Bills to Address Housing and Eviction Issues

Growing Business Through Partnership

Patrick Henry Community College and Longwood University SBDC join forces to increase small business support

Michael Scales, business analyst for the Longwood Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Western Region, knows business from the ground up. The Martinsville native owned and operated a family construction business for over 30 years.

Scales, who will base his operations in the Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) Dalton IDEA Center located at 26 Fayette Street, Uptown Martinsville, is looking forward to building relationships with SBDC clients.

“Recently, Longwood SBDC reorganized and moved to a more regional approach using a team of consultants,” Longwood SBDC Executive Director Sheri McGuire says. “Michael will assist in covering our western territory and be our ‘boots on the ground’ in Martinsville-Henry County, Patrick and Franklin counties.”

PHCC President Angeline Godwin is enthusiastic about the small business/college connection.

 “PHCC has enjoyed its partnership with SBDC, and we are confident that housing the office in our Dalton IDEA Center in Uptown Martinsville will provide greater access, exposure and camaraderie for the communities that we mutually serve,” Godwin says. “Entrepreneurship is alive and well in our region, and this collaboration further enhances our work.”

They both believe Scales is an ideal fit for the Martinsville position.

“Other than going to UVA in Charlottesville, I’ve been in Martinsville my whole life,” he notes. “I went to college to get my financial and accounting background so I could come home and work in the family business.”

After taking over the business from his father, Scales primarily worked on projects for the Virginia Department of Transportation.

"I found that I was really good with math,” he adds. “Whether it’s a finance problem or figuring out the super elevation of a curve for a roadway, if you know how to use formulas, you can do it.”

For the past five years Scales has shared his expertise as a workforce development instructor at PHCC.

“Teaching at PHCC, I’ve learned the satisfaction of what I call ‘light bulb moments,’” he relates. “When my students get it, you can see it in their eyes. They understand, and they want to learn more.”

Now Scales is excited about sharing similar “light bulb moments” with small business clients.

“Michael will link clients and stakeholders in our Western Region to Longwood SBDC resources available throughout Southern Virginia,” McGuire says.

Scales will begin with a one-on-one approach for startup clients.

“I want to make sure potential business owners have a knowledge of the business they want to pursue,” he explains. “Once I find out what particular services my clients need, then I’ll set up workshops on general business topics like Quickbooks or accounting.”

If Scales can’t meet a client’s need, he’ll find someone in the SBDC network who can.

“We all work together,” Regional Manager Lin Hite adds. “SBDC is like a big family, and we’re excited to welcome Michael as our newest member.”

As a small business resource for 30 years, the Longwood SBDC core mission is to provide education, consulting, and economic research to support potential and existing small business owners throughout Southern Virginia. Longwood SBDC works with local sponsors to provide consulting services free of charge; for more information visit www.sbdc-longwood.com.

USDA to Host 2018 Farm Bill Implementation Listening Session

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey announced that USDA is hosting a listening session for initial input on the 2018 Farm Bill. USDA is seeking public input on the changes to existing programs implemented by the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Risk Management Agency. Each agency will take into account stakeholder input when making discretionary decisions on program implementation.

“The 2018 Farm Bill is intended to provide support, certainty and stability to our Nation’s farmers, ranchers and land stewards by enhancing farm support programs, improving crop insurance, maintaining disaster programs, and promoting and supporting voluntary conservation,” said Under Secretary Northey. “We are seeking input from stakeholders on how USDA can streamline and improve program delivery while also enhancing customer service.”

The listening session will be held Feb. 26, 2019 at 9:00 a.m. in the Jefferson Auditorium in the South Building located at 14th Street and Independence Ave. S.W. in Washington, D.C.

The listening session is open to the public. Participants must register at farmers.gov/farmbillby February 22, 2019, to attend the listening session and are encouraged to provide written comments prior to the listening session. For those orally presenting comments at the listening session, written comments are encouraged to be submitted to regulations.govby February 22, 2019.  Additional written comments will be accepted through March 1, 2019.Comments received will be publicly available on www.regulations.gov.

“Truly this is a Farm Bill that improves farm safety net programs, protects federal crop insurance, and preserves strong rural development and research initiatives. At USDA we are eager to hear from our stakeholders on policy recommendations, so we can start working on implementing these important Farm Bill provisions,” said Northey

For more information on the listening session visit  farmers.gov/farmbill.

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