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Virginia State University

VSU To Host Public Field Day On Industrial Hemp on Thursday, August 17

Industrial hemp, a crop with a long and storied history in Virginia, is the subject of an August 17 public field day at Virginia State University (VSU). This first-of-its kind event will provide a forum for potential producers, researchers, marketing experts and processing industry professionals to discuss the production and economic potential of this crop. The discussions will be useful to Virginia farmers who may decide to grow industrial hemp if legislation changes to make it legal again to do so.

In 2015, Virginia lawmakers authorized the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) to enter into a memorandum of understanding with universities within the commonwealth to grow industrial hemp for research purposes. As a result, Virginia State University, Virginia Tech and James Madison University are currently conducting industrial hemp research that will position the state to provide the necessary information farmers will need to successfully grow the crop should it once again be legalized.

Meanwhile, the popularity of industrial hemp-made products soars. Currently all industrial hemp products sold in the U.S., including food, personal care products, clothing and even construction materials, are imported to the U.S. from Canada, China, Europe and other countries where the crop is legal.

Industrial hemp (Cannnabis sativa L.) is botanically related to marijuana, but with very different properties. While marijuana is rich with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component that makes pot a drug of choice by many, hemp contains only the smallest traces of THC (<0.3%), making it virtually impossible to get high from. But it does produce strong fibers, and the seed has good quality oil that once made it a cash crop for America.

Fiber-type varieties are used mainly for production of fiber that has multiple applications in the textile industry for yarns and fabrics, sail ropes and canvas. The remaining plant parts are used for industrial applications including paper, building material reinforcement, insulation material, bio-energy and more. Hemp seed is also valuable. It contains high quality oil currently used in the food, pharmaceutical, medical and cosmetic industries. The seed has a high protein content with a balanced amino acid profile and is used in human dietary supplements. Left-over cake material from oil extraction is a rich protein source used as an animal food supplement.

In fact, hemp fiber was so important to our young nation that colonial farmers were often mandated to grow it. The Declaration of Independence is said to have been drafted on hemp paper, and our nation’s victory in the American Revolution can in many ways be attributed to the patriots’ use of hemp in making their ships’ sails, rope, riggings and more. George Washington grew it, and Thomas Jefferson bred improved hemp varieties. Abraham Lincoln also used hemp seed oil to fuel his household lamps. During World War II, the USDA developed a “Hemp for Victory” film to encourage everyone to grow the crop to support the war effort. The fibers were used for parachutes, rope, shoes, clothes and more.

But during the mid part of the last century, strict legislation was passed that made it illegal to grow this versatile crop in the U.S., largely due to its relationship to its high-THC relative, marijuana. As a result, cultivars that once thrived across the country have been lost or remained unimproved, and no significant work has been done on production techniques and variety developments. Previous processing facilities collapsed and market availability that once drove production and supply has ceased to exist.

“So in many respects, it’s like starting from scratch,” said lead researcher on the project, Dr. Maru Kering. “We are now growing seeds that have been developed in Europe and elsewhere in a screening exercise to determine varieties adaptable to our soils and climatic conditions.”

He explained that it is a learning process to figure out each variety’s performance and potential problems, like weed and pest infestations. “Having such data will be important in developing production management guidelines for Virginia producers to facilitate high yields in the future, if and when industrial hemp becomes legal to grow again in the commonwealth,” Kering added.

The Industrial Hemp Field Day is being hosted by the university’s Agricultural Research Station (ARS), part of the university’s College of Agriculture. The ARS is responsible for carrying out the land-grant university’s mission of conducting scientific agriculture and food production research that will increase profitability for Virginia’s small, part-time and limited-resource farmers. Land-grant initiatives such as these help support and grow Virginia’s $91 billion agriculture and forest industry.

The event is free and open to the public. It will be held 8 a.m. to noon, Thursday, August 17, at VSU’s Randolph Farm, 4414 River Road, Petersburg, VA. Participants should register by visiting www.ext.vsu.edu/calendar, and clicking on the event.

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, please contact Agricultural Research Station at lmorris@vsu.edu or (804) 524-5151 / TDD (800) 828-1120 during business hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to discuss accommodations five (5) days prior to the event.

VSU Offers Free Workshop on Raising Fish in Pond Cages

The Aquaculture Program at Virginia State University has scheduled a fish cage-building workshop on April 27 from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. at VSU’s Randolph Farm, located at 4415 River Road, Ettrick.

Free and open to the public, the workshop is designed for anyone with a farm pond who is interested raising fish in cages for profit or personal consumption. 

Participants will learn the basics of cage aquaculture and construct a fish cage. Cage-building materials will be provided but participants are encouraged to bring leather gloves, tin snips, a tape measure, cutting pliers and protective goggles.

Registration is limited to 20 and is available on a first-come, first-served basis. To register, visit VSU's Cooperative Extension events calendar at www.ext.vsu.edu. For more information or for persons with a disability who desire assistive devices, services or other accommodations to participate in this activity, please contact Debra B. Jones at dbjones@vsu.edu  or call (804) 524-5496/ TDD (800) 828-1120 during business hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to discuss accommodations no later than five days prior to the event.

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.  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.

Virginia State University Selects New Leader for Hospitality Management Program

Dr. Berkita Bradford, who has been serving as the interim chairwoman of Virginia State University’s Hospitality Management Department, has been formally appointed to the position. The appointment is effective immediately.

Bradford, who arrived at VSU in fall 2015 to serve as an associate professor and program coordinator, stepped into the interim chairman position January 2016 after Dr. Dianne Williams left the university for a position at Bethune Cookman University, in Daytona Beach, Fla. She managed the unit for more than 10 years.

As chairwoman, Bradford will provide the department with administrative oversight and manage the day-to-day operations.

"Dr. Bradford’s passion for the hospitality industry and wealth of experience in the field have positioned her to be an ideal fit to lead VSU’s Hospitality Management Department into the future,” said Dr. M. Ray McKinnie, dean of VSU’s College of Agriculture, which houses the Hospitality Management Department.

In accepting the position, Bradford said, “I’m both honored and humbled to serve the VSU family. I look forward to the hard work, numerous challenges and working with the wonderful faculty and staff in the department.”

VSU's hospitality management program is one of only five Historically Black College and University (HBCU) programs accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration (ACPHA), which proves the program exceeds standards in educational quality. The objective of the program is to provide students leadership and managerial training with real world hospitality educational experiences. The curriculum is designed to develop students’ focus on operations management at the property level and prepare them for management careers in the hotel and restaurant industry, food and beverage industry, convention and event planning, as well as at resorts, casinos and more.

Recent VSU hospitality management graduates have been hired by top national and international companies, including: Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, Marriott International, Inc., Thompson Hospitality®, Sodexo, Aramark, U.S. Omni, Hilton, Four Seasons, Outback, Darden, and Loews® Hotels & Resorts, among many others.

Founded in 1882, Virginia State University is one of Virginia’s two land-grant institutions and is located 20 minutes south of Richmond in the village of Ettrick.

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. 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.

Berry Health is Conference Focus

Virginia State University’s College of Agriculture has scheduled its ninth annual Berry Production and Marketing Conference on March 9 from 8 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. in the Gateway Dining Hall on campus.

Keynote speaker Dr. Britt Burton will discuss berry health. She is director of the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Center for Nutrition Research.

Conference topics include blackberry/blueberry weed control; blackberry/raspberry production; blueberry production/management; and berry marketing. A $20 per person registration fee includes lunch. To register, visit VSU’s  events calendar at www.ext.vsu.edu.

For more information or for persons with a disability who desire  assistive devices, services or other accommodations to participate in this activity, please contact Mollie Klein at mklein@vsu.edu or call (804) 524-6960 / TDD (800) 828-1120 during business hours of 8 am. and 5 p.m. to discuss accommodations no later than five days prior to the event.

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. 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.
 

New Program Provides Academic-Based Urban Agriculture Certification To Want-To-Be Urban Farmers or Educators

Urban agriculture is hot. And for good reason. It can help alleviate urban food deserts, make our food as "local" and fresh as possible and decrease the "food miles" associated with long-distance transportation. From rooftop gardens and aquaponics centers in converted warehouses, to growing crops on abandoned properties, urban agriculture provides a wide range of community benefits, including closer neighborhood ties, reduced crime, education and job training opportunities, and healthy food access for low-income residents.

“That’s why,” say’s Dr. Leonard Githinji, Virginia State University’s Urban Agriculture Extension Specialist, “It’s no wonder we’re seeing a huge increase in the number of urban farms from Brooklyn to Boise and everywhere in between.”

But training hasn’t kept up with demand for these urban cowboys. As Githinji explains, a lot of non-profits, churches, businesses and municipalities are putting a great deal of resources into getting urban farms up and running. So much so that last year the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published an Urban Agriculture Toolkit to provide informational resources to these group leaders, many of whom have never farmed before or know a nematode from a horned toad. (For the record, a nematode is parasitic worm that often causes damage to garden crops like tomatoes and peppers. A horned toad is actually a desert lizard.)

But there’s a lot to learn, he explains, from business planning, legal issues and market development to soil quality, pest management and plant health. And while an online tool kit is a great resource, we need more science-based, boots-on-the-ground training for these urban pioneers.

To help meet the demand for academically trained urban agriculture professionals, Virginia State University’s College of Agriculture is offering an Urban Agriculture Certificate Program this spring. Designed for anyone charged with starting or managing an urban farm or who wants to increase their marketability to do so, the course provides a curriculum rich in the science-based knowledge needed to successfully and safely grow produce in an urban environment. Courses include: plant propagation and nursery management, plant disease and pest management, sustainable soil management, greenhouse production (hydroponic and aquaponic), animal husbandry (chickens and rabbits), and more. All courses will be taught by Virginia State University (VSU) and Virginia Tech professors.

Each of the 10 sessions includes classroom work, plus hands-on lab and field work at VSU’s Randolph Farm. Small class sizes allow for personalized attention for each student to master the foundational principles to plan, manage and profit from an urban farm business.

The course is suitable even for those who have had gardening training before, such as Master Gardeners, as it will contribute to their continuing education credits.

The 10-week course begins March 11 and ends May 13. Classes will be conducted Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. on VSU’s Randolph Farm located at 4415 River Road, Petersburg, VA. Instruction will consist of morning lectures and afternoon hands-on outdoor and lab activities. Each student must also complete by the end of July 80 hours of volunteer work at an approved urban farm in order to successfully graduate from the program with full certification.

Applicants are required to pay a $190 one-time fee that will cover registration, instructional materials and lunch. Registration and a limited number of full and partial scholarships are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Registration is limited and closes March 3. To apply for a scholarship or to register, visit www.ext.vsu.edu/urban-agriculture-certificate-program.

If you need further information or are a person with a disability and desire any assistive devices, services or other accommodations to participate in this activity, please contact Mollie Klein at mklein@vsu.edu or call (804) 524-6960/TDD (800) 828-1120 during business hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to discuss accommodations no later than five days prior to the event.

This program is supported in part by the USDA/NIFA grant # 2015-38821-24339 Entitled “From Food Deserts to Agrihoods: Transforming Food Insecure Neighborhoods with Comprehensive Urban Agriculture Education.

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.

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.

Field Day Focuses on Pastures and Forages To Help VA Small Farmers Meet High Demand For Goat and Sheep Meat

Pastures and forages will be the focus of Small Ruminant Field Day scheduled on Oct. 21 from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. at Virginia State University’s Randolph Farm, 4415 River Road, Ettrick. Sponsored by Virginia Cooperative Extension and VSU’s Small Farm Outreach Program, the educational event will inform goat and sheep producers about forages to plant and how to best manage and maintain them. Forages are bulky grazing animal foods such as grass or hay. "Forages and pastures are important when considering nutritional requirements but are just as salient to parasite control," said Dr. Dahlia O’Brien, VSU small ruminant extension specialist.

The program is $10 per person, which includes lunch, as well as hands-on hoof-trimming, drenching and vaccination demonstrations. Participants are encouraged to bring weeds from their property to have them identified by an on-site pasture weed specialist. “By identifying weeds, ranchers can employ safe, targeted methods of reducing a pasture’s weed load to maximize the nutrient-dense forage their animals need,” said O’Brien.

There is large and an unfilled demand for goat and sheep meat in the major cities of the United States, including metropolitan areas in Virginia. It is a staple of many ethnic groups, with about 60 to 70 percent of the world regularly eating goat meat. According to North Carolina State University, since 1991, the United States is a net importer of goat meat. In 2014, 43,188 million pounds of goat meat were imported for a total value of $94.7 million, compared to 2,994 million pounds in 1990 for a total value of $1.9 million. As populations from the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean increase, so does the demand for these meats, with goats and sheep of all ages often fetching premium prices.  Because goats and sheep can be raised on relatively small amounts of land, this lends an opportunity for many of Virginia’s smaller farmers to fill this niche. Virginia Cooperative Extension at VSU focuses on providing Extension assistance to the Commonwealth’s small, historically underserved and limited resource farmers and ranchers.

This year’s Small Ruminant Field Day is part of VSU’s interdisciplinary pilot program called “Goatober.” The program aims to grow Virginia’s goat industry through the month of October by helping goat farmers tackle their two major business obstacles: consumers’ lack of knowledge on how to find local goat farmers and their products, as well as their unfamiliarity with how to prepare goat meat. This initiative aims to introduce goat meat to Virginia consumers by raising awareness on how to prepare tasty goat dishes, as well as, where to find local producers.

To register for this event, visit http://www.ext.vsu.edu/calendar, click on the event and then click on the registration link, or contact Mollie Klein at (804) 524-6960 or email mklein@vsu.edu.

If you need further information or are a person with a disability and desire any assistive devices, services or other accommodations to participate in this activity, please contact Mollie Klein at mklein@vsu.edu or call (804) 524-6960 / (800) 828-1120 during business hours of 8 am. and 5 p.m. to discuss accommodations no later than five days prior to the event.

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. 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, Interim Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.

Armenians Seek Aquatic Advice from VSU

As part of an eastern U.S. tour agenda, a three-member Armenian delegation will visit Virginia State University’s aquaculture facilities on Sept. 15 to learn about best management practices used to help limited-resource fish farmers utilize water resources more efficiently.

Armenia is a nation and former Soviet republic located in Western Asia. Under the auspices of a PEER (Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research) grant supported by USAID (United States Agency for International Development), project staffers are working with approximately 20 small fish producers growing trout and sturgeon in Armenia’s Ararat Valley. Fish farmers there are using inefficient water technologies and experiencing a depletion of artesian water resources. Project objectives include developing an educational outreach program and fostering sustainable fisheries that use water resources more efficiently.

Dr. Brian Nerrie, VSU aquaculture extension specialist who will direct the tour, cites distinct similarities between VSU and Armenian aquatic programming efforts and considers fish farmers concerns to be universal. Nerrie said VSU has worked with more than 300 fish farmers across the state who grow hybrid striped bass, catfish, trout, tilapia and freshwater shrimp.

The Armenians realize they’re wasting water and experiencing water quality issues, so they seek enlightenment on successful strategies we’ve implemented to address many of the same concerns, said Nerrie. We’ll not only share our accomplishments with them, but demonstrate how they might apply some of the same strategies to address their current dilemma. For more information on the Armenian visit or VSU’s Aquaculture Program, contact Nerrie at (804) 534-5903 or email bnerrie@vsu.edu.

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. 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, Interim Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.

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