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Virginia State University

Annual Ginger and Turmeric Field Day Focuses on New Varieties and Health Finding

Dr. Reza Rafie holds baby ginger grown at Virginia State University’s Randolph Farm.

Virginia Cooperative Extension will conduct its Ginger and Turmeric Field Day Thursday, October 24, 2019, at Virginia State University (VSU), Petersburg, Va. The popular annual program will cover both the health benefits of ginger and turmeric, as well as techniques to successfully grow and market it. Participants will also visit VSU’s Randolph Farm, where they will see four new varieties of container and outdoor grown ginger, as well as learn about the harvesting, washing and packing of the crops for market. Additionally, participants will learn about the runaway success story of Richmond’s Hardywood Brewery Gingerbread Stout, which features locally-grown ginger.

Pre-registration is required and costs $20 per person. It includes a boxed lunch.

At the program new VSU research will be announced that confirms immature ginger, or “baby” ginger, contains about twice as many polyphenols and has two to three times more antioxidation activity than the mature ginger found in most grocery stores. “That means if you’re eating ginger for its health benefits,” said Dr. Rafat Siddiqui, associate professor of food sciences at VSU’s Agricultural Research Station, “you may be selling yourself short at the supermarket, which traditionally offers only mature ginger, recognizable by its light brown color.”

Unfortunately for consumers though, 100 percent of the ginger found at the supermarket is imported, largely from Southeast Asia on container ships. From the time it’s packed until it makes its way into our kitchens is usually months. “Baby ginger is more perishable than its older counterpart, which naturally features a papery skin to lock in moisture and freshness,” said Dr. Reza Rafie, horticulture Extension specialist at VSU. “The immature ginger just couldn’t make the voyage.”

So, what’s a health-conscious, ginger-lover to do? Rafie and others at the field day will present solutions that not only hold benefits for consumers, but also for U.S. small-scale farmers, as well.

Since it takes less time to grow and harvest baby ginger (seven to eight months, Rafie explained, compared to commercial ginger, which matures in the ground for about 10-11 months), the tropical plant can grow in regions with shorter growing seasons than Southeast Asia. Rafie explained he and many others have had great success growing baby ginger in pots and in raised beds up and down the East Coast.

“But it’s a crop that must be sold close to home and quickly,” he added. “It’s perfect for those small-scale farmers who sell direct to consumers at farmers markets or through community supported agriculture (CSA) programs or to chefs, who prefer it for its more delicate taste and the fact it doesn’t need to be peeled.”

Presenters at the field day will also discuss the potential profitability of growing baby ginger. Immature ginger is selling this fall for about $5 to $10 a pound, depending on the market, remarked Rafie. Compared with traditional small-scale farming crops like tomatoes or sweet potatoes, which were selling this summer at a Richmond, Va farmers market for $2 and $1.50* respectively, baby ginger can offer farmers the opportunity for greater profits per production area.

He explained that production results at VSU have shown that each ginger plant has the potential of producing three to eight pounds of marketable baby ginger, depending on production techniques, including fertilizer, irrigation, disease management and mounding.

“The market potential is considerable,” says Rafie.

The program will be held in the L. Douglas Wilder Building Auditorium, Carter G. Woodson Avenue on the VSU campus.

For more information, visit the VSU Cooperative Extension calendar of events at ext.vsu.edu and click on the event. If you desire 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 Mark Klingman at mjklingman@vsu.edu or

804-524-5493/TDD (800) 828-1120 during business hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to discuss accommodations five days prior to the event.

Fun, Innovative Summer Leadership Program For Statewide Youth Ages 11-13 at VSU

July 15-18, 2019

Youth ages 11-13 are invited to participate in a 4-H summer leadership program at Virginia State University (VSU) July 15-18, 2019. The iLeadership Institute is a four-day, three-night program on the VSU campus designed to foster leadership skills in middle school-aged children (who are 11-13 any time during the current 4-H year of October 1, 2018 and September 30, 2019). There is an option to attend the program on a daily basis for one or more days. No previous experience with 4-H is required. Youth participating in this program will automatically be enrolled into the Virginia 4-H program free of charge.
 
The highly acclaimed program, now in its second year, features interactive activities that expose youth to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Agriculture, and Math) subjects, teach basic marketing skills, and strengthen team-building and networking abilities. Youth will also be introduced to distinguished speakers, learn table etiquette, develop personal action plans, experience what it is like to live on a college campus, and more.
 
Additionally, the iLeadership Institute will enhance the ability of new, current and future 4-H youth to serve in local, district, state and national 4-H leadership roles.
 
Registration for the iLeadership Institute is $300. Youth can also participate on a day-to-day basis, for $100 per day. 4-H members aged age 16-18 with Teen Mentor training can participate as a Teen Counselor for $50. Adult volunteers and 4-H Agents can participate for $25.
 
To register or for more information, visit ext.vsu.edu/4h-ileadership.
 
If you have any questions or are a person with a disability and desire any assistive devices, services or other accommodations to participate in this activity, please contact the 4-H Program office at jbrown@vsu.edu or call (804) 524-5964 / (800) 828-1120 during business hours of 8 am. and 5 p.m. to discuss accommodations 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. 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.

Fun, Innovative Summer Leadership Program For Statewide Youth Ages 11-13 at VSU - July 15-18, 2019

Youth ages 11-13 are invited to participate in a 4-H summer leadership program at Virginia State University (VSU) July 15-18, 2019. The iLeadership Institute is a four-day, three-night program on the VSU campus designed to foster leadership skills in middle school-aged children (who are 11-13 any time during the current 4-H year of October 1, 2018 and September 30, 2019). There is an option to attend the program on a daily basis for one or more days. No previous experience with 4-H is required. Youth participating in this program will automatically be enrolled into the Virginia 4-H program free of charge.

The highly acclaimed program, now in its second year, features interactive activities that expose youth to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Agriculture, and Math) subjects, teach basic marketing skills, and strengthen team-building and networking abilities. Youth will also be introduced to distinguished speakers, learn table etiquette, develop personal action plans, experience what it is like to live on a college campus, and more.

Additionally, the iLeadership Institute will enhance the ability of new, current and future 4-H youth to serve in local, district, state and national 4-H leadership roles.

Registration for the iLeadership Institute is $300. Youth can also participate on a day-to-day basis, for $100 per day. 4-H members aged age 16-18 with Teen Mentor training can participate as a Teen Counselor for $50. Adult volunteers and 4-H Agents can participate for $25.

To register or for more information, visit ext.vsu.edu/4h-ileadership.

If you have any questions or are a person with a disability and desire any assistive devices, services or other accommodations to participate in this activity, please contact the 4-H Program office at jbrown@vsu.edu or call (804) 524-5964 / (800) 828-1120 during business hours of 8 am. and 5 p.m. to discuss accommodations 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. 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.

Event to Focus on New, Less-Restrictive Industrial Hemp Laws and the Resulting Opportunities for Virginia’s Agriculture Industry

3rd Annual Industrial Hemp Field Day, Virginia State University, June 25, 2019

VSU’s Dr. Maru Kering (left), the university’s lead industrial hemp researcher, explains to visitors to VSU’s Randolph Farm how different hemp cultivars have fared in central Virginia during a past growing year. 

On July 25, 2019, Virginia State University (VSU) will host its third annual Industrial Hemp Field Day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the university’s Gateway Conference Center, 2804 Martin Luther King Boulevard, Colonial Heights, VA.
 
The event will provide a forum for potential growers, researchers, marketing experts and industrial hemp product users to discuss the future of the crop in Virginia and neighboring states. Attendees will receive an update on the legislation governing industrial hemp production in the Commonwealth of Virginia as well as learn about the challenges and opportunities for cultivating this crop.
 
Speakers will also discuss the wide variety of products derived from industrial hemp. For example, hemp stalks can be used to produce biofuel, paper, upholstery, fiber for cloth and other textile items, building materials, and industrial products. Industrial hemp seeds can be used to produce animal feed and human food as well as serve as a source of oil for lotion and cosmetic products. Industrial hemp flowers can also be used to produce Cannabidiol (CBD) oil for a variety of medicinal uses.
 
Registration is $50 per person for the first 100 registered. It is $65 per person afterward. Registration includes lunch and is limited to the first 400 registrants. To register, visitwww.ext.vsu.edu/industrial-hemp.

During the 2019 General Assembly session, Virginia lawmakers amended the state’s industrial hemp laws to align with language in the 2018 federal farm bill passed by congress last December. They amended the definitions of cannabidiol oil, marijuana and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to exclude industrial hemp in the possession of a registered person, hemp products, or an oil containing no more than 0.3% THC. As passed, the bill defines "industrial hemp" as any part of the plant Cannabis sativa that has a concentration of THC that is no greater than that allowed by federal law, and it defines "hemp product" as any finished product that is otherwise lawful and that contains industrial hemp. The bill adds the category of "dealer" in industrial hemp to the existing registration categories of grower and processor.

As a result of these changes, Virginia farmers can now apply to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) for a permit to grow industrial hemp for purposes beyond exclusively for research. VDACS reports that it has experienced a surge in grower and processor applications since December.
 
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 Laverne Morris 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.
 
The 2019 Industrial Hemp Field Day is 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. Initiatives such as this event help support and grow Virginia’s $91 billion agriculture and forest industry.
 
This event is held in partnership with Virginia Cooperative Extension. 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.

 

 

 

 

Statewide Summit to Address Needs, Future of Urban Agriculture in Virginia

4th Virginia Urban Agriculture Summit to be held April 23-25 in Virginia Beach

Photo caption: Curtis Moody, teaches school children about planting and growing at Moody Street Garden. Photo courtesy of Cedric Owens.

Agriculture is increasingly spreading from rural areas into our urban and suburban communities for many reasons, not the least of which includes a growth in the number of people who want their food sourced locally and a need for communities to eliminate food deserts. The United States Department of Agriculture defines a food desert as “…parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas.”
 
Evidence of urban agriculture’s rise in Virginia can be seen in counties like Arlington and Fairfax, which have already established legislation and zoning codes to address urban agriculture. Some communities like Alexandria, Fairfax and Arlington have long waiting lists for community garden spaces. Courses and training programs like Virginia State University’s 12-week Sustainable Urban Agriculture Certificate Program are growing in popularity. And the number of urban farms in Richmond, Hampton Roads and other urban areas across the commonwealth has exploded over recent years.
 
As more farmers get started on vacant lots and rooftops and in shipping containers and other non-traditional urban spaces, conversations about research, policy, safety, land-usage rights and sustainability are on the rise.
 
To address these and other issues pertaining to the growth of Virginia’s urban agriculture industry, the Virginia Cooperative Extension program at Virginia State University, among other partners, is hosting the 4th Virginia Urban Agriculture Summit April 23–25, 2019, at the Founders Inn and Spa, 5641 Indian River Rd, Virginia Beach, Va. Over three days more than 100 urban farmers, gardeners, foodies, ag-tivists, policy makers and government leaders will convene to network and learn about one of agriculture’s fastest growing sectors.
 
“The Virginia Urban Agriculture Summit is an important learning opportunity for anyone seeking more knowledge to grow their own produce, either for personal consumption or for commercial sales,” said Dr. Leonard Githinji, Virginia State University Urban Agriculture Extension specialist. “People of all ages are becoming more focused on their health; they want to reconnect with the earth and learn how to grow vegetables and fruits. Urban agriculture offers a feasible option for these people and is an antidote to food deserts.”
 
Keynote speakers include Dr. Jewel Bronaugh, Virginia’s 16th Commissioner of Agriculture; Duron Chavis, manager of Community Engagement at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond; Shelley Blades, farm manager and executive director of Lynchburg Grows; and Curtis Moody, community garden coordinator of Moody Street Garden of Newport News. Topics covered at the summit will include urban food systems, food deserts, food security, food safety, postharvest handling, food justice, urban environmental issues and urban economic development. Interested parties are encouraged to submit an abstract for an oral, poster or panel presentation for the summit. Visithttps://www.ext.vsu.edu/vuas-abstracts before March 15.

 
Summit registration is $150 and is limited to 150 registrants. The registration cost includes two continental breakfasts, two buffet lunches, a networking dinner reception, and continuous food and drink refreshments throughout much of the summit. An award-winning chef will prepare food sourced from the freshest meats, seafood, as well as seasonal fruits and vegetables from local and regional artisan providers. To register, visit www.ext.vsu.edu/calendar, click on the event and then click on the registration link. 

 
Accommodation is available for $99/night per room until midnight March 24. Visithttps://www.ext.vsu.edu/vuas-conference-venue to book your accommodation or call the hotel at 1-844-382-7378. Registrants calling directly to book a room must ask for the “2019 Virginia Urban Agriculture Summit” room rate.

 
Watch an overview video from the 3rd Virginia Urban Agriculture Summit athttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97_O0vUUKPw. Learn more about the first three summits at https://www.ext.vsu.edu/vuas-past-events.

 
For further information or if a person with a disability desires any assistive devices, services or other accommodations to participate in this activity, contact Mollie Klein at mklein@vsu.edu or call (804) 524-5964 / (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.
 
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.

 

Virginia Is Deemed 'Ripe' For Berry Growing

VSU to host conference to assist farmers in growing this niche crop

Virginia is not just for lovers, but for berry growers, too, according Dr. Reza Rafie, Virginia State University (VSU) Extension specialist in horticulture. That’s because after conducting extensive research of berry production across central and southside Virginia, Rafie is confident that Virginia’s climate and soil are well suited to grow strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries.

This is good news for Virginia farmers, because national berry sales have increased in recent years due to growing consumer appreciation for the many health benefits that come from eating these succulent fruits. In fact, with U.S. sales totaling $5.8 million annually, berries are the leading produce category purchased by consumers. And that means Virginia farmers—even those with limited acreage—have an opportunity to tap into this market to gain revenue by helping to meet the growing demand for berries. 

Right now, the Commonwealth lags behind southern neighboring states like North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia in berry production. Berry crops are versatile for industrial use in frozen foods and other value-added products and have the potential to create small enterprises and jobs in rural communities. 

To assist Virginia farmers with starting or growing berries for profit, Rafie is organizing the 11th Annual Virginia Berry Production and Marketing Conference, at which internationally renowned berry researchers will share information about berry production and marketing that will help growers be more profitable. This popular annual event, hosted by Cooperative Extension at VSU, will be held Thursday, March 21 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Randolph Farm, 4415 River Road, Ettrick. 

Keynote presenter Dr. John R. Clark, a plant breeder and distinguished professor of horticulture at the University Arkansas, will speak on blackberry varieties. Dr. Clark has developed more than 50 varieties of various fruits and has cooperative breeding activities at several locations in the United States, Europe, Mexico, South America and Australia. Dr. Bernadine Strik, a horticulture and Extension berry crops specialist at Oregon State University, will speak about the basics of blueberry production. Berry experts from North Carolina State University, the University of Georgia, Virginia Tech and VSU, will present on insect, disease and weed management. Dr. Theresa Nartea, VSU’s Extension specialist in marketing and agribusiness, will present on marketing berry crops. 

“New and experienced berry growers will not only learn the latest information about berry production, berry health and marketing strategies, they’ll be able to have questions answered by some of the nation’s leading berry experts, and also network with other growers,” Rafie said. 

Registration is $20 per person and includes lunch. 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 Mollie Klein at mklein@vsu.edu or call (804) 524-6960 / (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.

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.

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.

 

VSU Receives $200,000 From USDA to Help Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers

Virginia State University (VSU) will receive $200,000 in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers (SDVFR) in the state. The funding is part of $9.4 million in grants announced on October 12 by Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. 

The Small Farm Outreach Program (SFOP), which is part of Cooperative Extension at VSU, supports SDVFR by equipping them with the tools and skills needed to make informed decisions in owning and operating profitable farm businesses.

“We’re grateful for the funding support from USDA. We will use the funding to continue our training and outreach efforts to help socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers build successful and sustainable businesses,” said SFOP Director William Crutchfield.  

The grant money will be used to support an array of the SFOP’s programming such as workshops, conferences, field days and farm tours, as well as the one-on-one training that the SFOP provides to SDVFR located in areas from the Northern Neck to the South West region of Virginia where there is a high concentration of SDVFR. The grant will enable them to provide support to an additional 10 counties in southwest Virginia bringing the total to 74. 

Funds will also be used toward a new high tunnel project that will be completed in early spring 2019 and two mobile demonstration units. Both projects also support training and education of SDVFR. Yet another important SFOP initiative is to create awareness and increase participation by SDVFR in USDA farm programs. 

This USDA funding is available through its Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (also called the 2501 Program) managed by the USDA Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement (OPPE). The 2501 Program was created through the 1990 Farm Bill. In a release, Secretary Purdue said, “The 2501 grants ensure veterans and underserved farmers and ranchers are well positioned to start their careers in agriculture and continue to give back to the American people. These resources will help strengthen the American economy and provide assistance for those who need it most.”

VSU’s Small Farm Outreach Program aims to encourage and assist limited-resource, socially disadvantaged and military veteran farmers and ranchers to own, maintain and operate farms and ranches independently, to participate in agricultural programs and improve their overall farm management skills. 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. The program provides educational programming in approximately 74 Virginia counties, which have the highest concentrations of limited-resource, socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers in 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. 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.

SFOP Workshop Will Highlight Benefits of Adding Commercial Rabbit Production to Farm Operations

The Virginia State University Small Farm Outreach Program (SFOP) will host the educational workshop, Pastured Raised Commercial Rabbit Production, on Thursday, November 15 from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at VSU Randolph Farm Pavilion, 4415 River Road, Petersburg, Va.

“Through our programs we aim to educate small-scale and limited-resource farmers about different revenue-generating opportunities,” said SFOP Director William Crutchfield. “Rabbit production provides a meat product for revenue while simultaneously allowing producers to reduce the cost of fertilizer and other soil amendments.” 

Attendees will get practical information about Virginia laws for processing and selling rabbit meat. They will learn about barn, cage and processing unit construction, and enhance their knowledge about which rabbit species are best suited for meat. Participants also will learn how rabbit production can become part of a nutrient management plan to efficiently manage waste as a cost-effective, organic soil amendment in the garden and on the farm.

Rabbits convert feed to meat more efficiently than cattle, and have been called the next big thing in pastured livestock. They may be raised for commercial purposes, including meat consumption, as pets and for laboratory use. According to the 2012 U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), there were 13,420 farms with rabbits with an inventory of 400,049 and 852,837 rabbits sold. 

This educational workshop is free and open to the public. Space is limited, so register early. To register, visit www.ext.vsu.edu/calendar, click on the event and then click on the registration link. 

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 the Small Farm Outreach Program office by email at smallfarm@vsu.edu or call (804) 524-3292 / TDD (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 Small Farm Outreach Program, which is part of Cooperative Extension at Virginia State University, aims to encourage and assist limited-resource, socially disadvantaged and military veteran farmers and ranchers to own, maintain and operate farms and ranches independently, to participate in agricultural programs and improve their overall farm management skills. 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. Currently, the program provides educational programming in approximately 64 Virginia counties, which have the highest concentrations of limited-resource, socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers in the state. For more information, visithttps://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. 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.

VSU Welcomes New Hires in 4-H, Forestry and Operations

Virginia State University (VSU) is pleased to announce the addition of three new personnel who have joined Cooperative Extension and the College of Agriculture. Chantel Wilson, Ph.D., has joined as 4-H STEAM Extension specialist, Jerry Bettis Sr., Ph.D., has joined as forestry Extension specialist, and Ronald Howell has rejoined the College of Agriculture as director of Operations Management reporting to Dean M. Ray McKinnie.

“We are thrilled to welcome two new specialists to our Extension family. The addition of Dr. Chantel Wilson will enable us to enhance our capacity to engage youth in agriculture through our 4-H program. Dr. Jerry Bettis will provide expertise to foresters and Virginians interested in trees and forests,” said Dr. McKinnie. “And we are pleased to welcome back Ronald Howell to VSU. He will provide guidance and direction for College of Agriculture strategic operating plans, projects and initiatives.”

 “I’m excited for the chance to ‘give back’ by developing programming to help prepare young people for success in a changing world,” said Dr. Wilson. “Programs such as 4-H can have a tremendous positive influence on the lives of young people. I believe that my participation in a youth agricultural program helped me to develop career aspirations and the skills needed for my success, eventually leading me to become the first person in my family to graduate from college.”

Dr. Wilson earned a Ph.D. in crop and soil environmental sciences from Virginia Tech, and an M.S. in plant pathology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She intends to work with stakeholders to determine community needs and the skills young people need for success in STEAM fields. STEAM in this instance stands for science, technology, engineering, agriculture and math. “I hope to channel my creativity and passion to develop fun, informative and useful programming based on current research,” she said. “My ultimate goals are to generate interest in STEAM fields, strengthen scientific literacy and to empower youth by showing them how to reach their career goals.” 

Dr. Wilson is also a Virginia certified turf and landscape nutrient management planner. Before joining VSU, she served as urban nutrient management Specialist at Virginia Tech contracted to the Virginia Dept. of Conservation and Recreation, and as a graduate research assistant/teaching scholar at Virginia Tech. Dr. Wilson joins VSU’s 4-H Extension specialist Dr. Maurice Smith, who specializes in youth development, citizenship and leadership development.

Dr. Bettis Sr. expressed his enthusiasm for becoming part of Cooperative Extension’s rich history of educating and training Virginia landowners. “I hope my first accomplishments are to teach and train underserved landowners to seek the services of a consulting forester and use a written contract prepared by a consulting forester when selling timber,” he said. “If each landowner in Virginia does this when selling timber, I would consider my tenure at VSU stellar!”

Dr. Bettis holds a Ph.D. in forestry from North Carolina State University. Before joining VSU, he served as forestry-natural resources Specialist at Tuskegee University, and as early rotation forester and raw materials representative at the Weyerhaeuser Company in New Bern, NC, where he was responsible for fire, vegetation and pest control on approximately 500,000 acres of timberland. 

Ronald Howell, a USDA scholar and VSU alum, said, “I am excited about my new position and to give back to my alma mater and the college that has made a huge impact on my life personally and professionally. Being back at Virginia State University and a part of the College of Agriculture allows me to share my passion for agricultural sciences and work with the faculty members and staff who afforded me so many opportunities as a student and who helped launch my career.”

Howell, who earned his master’s degree in agriculture and Extension education-community development from Virginia Tech, will be integral to the administration of budgets, developing management procedures and implementing new business processes. He will also provide administrative leadership to Randolph Farm and have oversight for the 1890 Facilities Grant Program. And through a partnership agreement, he will serve as a special advisor to the Office of the Secretariat of Agriculture and Forestry to increase land-grant capacity for outreach, student development and build strategic partnerships and initiatives that improve the stability and sustainability of farm and forestland owners in Virginia. Howell has held several positions with USDA and with the Commonwealth of Virginia, each time at a greater level of responsibility.

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.

Small Ruminant Health Will Be the Focus of Annual Small Ruminant Field Day

Goat and sheep health is the theme of this year’s Small Ruminant Field Day, which will be held on Friday, September 21, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Virginia State University’s Randolph Farm, 4415 River Road, Ettrick. 

“We hope participants will take away the message that having good healthcare management will result in high-performing animals,” said Dr. Dahlia O’Brien, small ruminant Extension specialist.“They will understand how to identify common health issues, treatments and steps to take in preventing health problems and when to contact their veterinarian.” 

Dr. Niki Whitley, an animal science Extension specialist at Fort Valley State University in Georgia, is this year’s keynote speaker. Dr. Whitley has worked with goats and sheep for 20 years at the University of Missouri, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and North Carolina A&T State University. She earned herPh.D. in animal physiology from Mississippi State University. 

VSU agricultural researchers will also present during the field day. Dr. Michelle Corley will discuss using stinging nettle for deworming and Dr. Eunice Ndegwa will discuss maintaining gut health in pre-weaned kids and lambs. Dr. O’Brien and Amanda Miller, VSU’s herd manager, will conduct hands-on sessions on vaccinations, proper drenching techniques, FAMACHA scoring, body condition scoring and maintaining hoof health. Goat and lamb products will be available for sampling.

Registration is $10 per person and includes lunch. To register, visit www.ext.vsu.edu/calendar, click on the event and then click on the registration link. 

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 (TDD) 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. 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.

VSU Small Farm Outreach Program To Hold Farmer-Buyer ‘Meet Up’

On Wednesday, August 22, farmers and buyers will have an opportunity to “meet up” at Virginia State University’s (VSU) Randolph Farm Pavilion, 4415 River Rd., Petersburg, Virginia. The event will take place begin at 9:00 a.m. and end at 3:00 p.m.

Farmers and buyers can participate in a networking session that can lead to sales relationships and open doors for follow-up. No contracts will be signed onsite. There will be a roundtable discussion in which some of the state’s top buyers will share what they’re looking for and answer questions. Representatives from United States Development Agency Rural Development will make a presentation, and there will be a Harmonized GAP Introduction workshop.

Farmers should come prepared with business cards, and a list of products and/or a price sheet. Buyers—including wholesalers, chefs, restaurant owners, grocers and food service directors—should bring business cards and a list of products they wish to source locally.

The event is free and open to the public. Lunch will be provided. Space is limited, so register early. To register, visit www.ext.vsu.edu/calendar, click on the event and then click on the registration link. 

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 Michael Carter Jr. at (804) 633-9964 or micarter@vsu.edu, or call the Small Farm Outreach Program office at (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 Small Farm Outreach Program, which is part of Cooperative Extension at Virginia State University, aims to encourage and assist limited-resource, socially disadvantaged and military veteran farmers and ranchers to own, maintain and operate farms and ranches independently, to participate in agricultural programs and improve their overall farm management skills. 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. Currently, the program provides educational programming in approximately 64 Virginia counties, which have the highest concentrations of limited-resource, socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers in the state. For more information, visit The SFOP website.

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.

VSU Offers Two Introduction to Quickbooks Sessions

The Small Farm Outreach Program (SFOP) at Virginia State University is holding two Introduction to Quickbooks sessions. The first will be held on Thursday, July 29 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and the second will be held on Thursday, July 12 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Both sessions will be held at Virginia State University’s Singleton Hall, Room 304.

Participants will learn how to create invoices and sales receipts, to enter and pay bills from vendors and download bank and credit card transactions directly into Quickbooks. They will also learn how to export reports so they can be used in Excel.

The session is free. Seating is limited to 20 per session. To register, visit www.ext.vsu.edu/calendar.

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 Michael Carter Sr. at mcarter@vsu.edu, (804) 481-1163/TDD (800) 828-1120 during business hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to discuss accommodations 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.

June Declared Virginia Berry Month


 

June has been officially recognized as Virginia Berry Month. On June 7, a formal proclamation issued by Governor Ralph Northam was read aloud by Bettina Ring, Virginia secretary of agriculture and forestry, at the USDA Field Day held at Virginia State University’s (VSU) Randolph Farm.

 

Hundreds of berry farms across the state grow strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries. More than 6 million pounds of berries are produced each year, which have an estimated value of $8 million in farm income.

 

“This recognition is important for Virginia’s berry growers,” said Dr. Reza Rafie, horticulture Extension specialist at VSU. “Berry growers across the commonwealth work earnestly to grow robust, tasty and nutritious berries for consumers. To have this recognition from the governor is incredible.”

 

The proclamation declared, “Virginia Berry Month recognizes berry producers’ stewardship of Virginia’s farmland, their positive environmental and economic impacts, and appreciates the social and cultural significance that berry production provides to the Commonwealth.”

 

You can read the proclamation at: https://bit.ly/2MqgvTw

 

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.

Sabra and VSU Tackle Food Security Issues Through Construction of Urban Garden at Ettrick’s Summerseat Property

Monday, June 11, about 15 Sabra Dipping Company employees joined staff and faculty at Virginia State University (VSU) to build the first phase of the Summerseat Urban Garden Project. The project is an initiative of VSU’s Sustainable and Urban Agriculture Cooperative  Extension Program and part of Sabra’s Plants with a Purpose program, which addresses the needs of communities living in food deserts.  

The Summerseat Urban Garden Project is designed to transform the 2.2-acre historic land parcel known as Summerseat into a food and agricultural hub to address food security issues within local schools and communities, enhance nutrition and food education, and bring people together. Summerseat is located on the VSU campus at the corner of Chesterfield Avenue and River Road, across from Ettrick Elementary School and next to VSU’s Multipurpose Center.

The volunteers, who also included several members of the Ettrick community, constructed 10 raised bed gardens that included shorter ones accessible to children and those in wheelchairs and waist-high beds, providing easy access for those who find it difficult to bend over. The beds will hold a wide variety of crops throughout the growing season. The purpose of the raised beds gardens is twofold: to teach members of the community how to successfully grow their own healthy food, as well as to harvest the crops for donation to food distribution centers for residents in and around Ettrick who have low access issues to fresh and nutritious food.

Later phases of the Summerseat Urban Garden Project may include a certified kitchen, nutrition and cooking classes, the development of a historical museum within the Summerseat building and K-12 educational programs

Four years after publishing the ground-breaking study, ‘Food Deserts in Virginia,’ VSU continues to identify ways to raise awareness of the commonwealth’s food security issues and to provide fresh, affordable food to all residents. Sabra Dipping Company shares a similar commitment and believes that everyone should have ready and affordable access to fresh fruit and vegetables. Both entities are confident that together they will be able to create a recreational, historical and productive green space at Summerseat that will provide maximum benefits to the public.

In addition to the Summerseat collaboration, Sabra is providing tuition assistance for students of VSU’s Sustainable Urban Agriculture Certification Course, which aims to increase competence and marketability for a career in urban agriculture. Students will have an opportunity to apply their skills in Sabra’s 340-square-foot employee workshare garden installed on the Sabra campus in Colonial Heights.

Sabra’s Plants with a Purpose to support Virginia State University’s Summerseat Urban Garden Project and Urban Agriculture Certification

Colonial Heights, VA, June 07, 2018— As an extension of its Plants with a Purpose program, Sabra Dipping Company, LLC (Sabra) will partner with Virginia State University (VSU) to assist in the development of an educational urban garden at Summerseat.  The Summerseat Urban Garden Project will transform a 2.2-acre historic land parcel into a food and agricultural hub designed to address food security issues within local schools and communities, enhance nutrition and food education, and bring people together. Sabra’s Plants with a Purpose initiative was launched as a pilot in late 2016 to address the needs of communities living in food deserts.  Richmond, VA has been called the largest “food desert” in America.

“We believe everyone should have ready and affordable access to fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Eugenio Perrier, Sabra’s Chief Marketing Officer. “The most meaningful way to create change is through hands-on, community driven collaboration. Through Plants with a Purpose, we aim to bolster the efforts of local partners who are literally planting seeds for the future. The Summerseat community garden will bring together neighbors of all ages to create fresh connections and draw sustenance from the ground.”

“Four years after publishing the ground-breaking study, ‘Food Deserts in Virginia,’ VSU continues its commitment to raise awareness of the commonwealth’s food security issues and to identify ways to provide fresh, affordable food to all residents,” said Dr. Jewel Bronaugh, the former Executive Director of VSU’s Center for Agricultural Research, Engagement and Outreach. “We are grateful that Sabra Dipping Company shares a similar commitment, and we’re confident that together we will be able to create a recreational, historical and productive green space at Summerseat that will provide maximum benefits to the public.”

In addition to the Summerseat collaboration, Sabra is providing tuition assistance for students of VSU’s Urban Agriculture Certification Course, which aims to increase competence and marketability for a career in urban agriculture. Students will have an opportunity to apply their skills in Sabra’s 340 square foot employee workshare garden installed on the Sabra campus in Colonial Heights. 

“This collaboration with VSU’s Summerseat Urban Garden Project enables us to build on our efforts to enhance access of fresh foods in communities where we work and live,” said Chandler Gotschlich, Sabra’s Associate Director Marketing Global Brands and Plants with a Purpose team lead.  “VSU has been instrumental in bringing awareness to the needs of the local community and creating public private partnerships to help fill in the gaps. We are thrilled to be involved in these efforts and look forward to playing a long-term role.”

Last year VSU received from former Gov. Terry McAuliffe the inaugural Outstanding State Stewardship Award for its preservation of Summerseat, an historic house built around 1860 near present-day VSU. A one-room house with modest Italianate detailing and a raised brick basement, Summerseat is among the last remaining dwellings of Ettrick, a small African-American community established along the Appomattox River in the mid-19th century. Its name is derived from local lore, which says that the structure previously served as a county judge’s courtroom during the summer months. Both Summerseat and Ettrick are eligible for listing in the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places.

“Food deserts,” as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), are neighborhoods and towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, affordable food (specifically fruits and vegetables). It is estimated more than 23 million Americans live in impacted areas.  At least 17 percent of Virginia’s population is affected by limited food access or food deserts.

VSU To Hold Fish Cage Building Workshop

On June 14, 2018, Virginia State University (VSU) is holding a fish cage-building workshop from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at Randolph Farm Pavilion, 4415 River Rd., Petersburg, Va.

This workshop will appeal to anyone with a farm pond who is interested in raising fish in cages for profit or personal consumption. Participants will learn the basics of cage aquaculture and how to construct a fish cage. Cage-building materials will be provided, but participants should bring leather gloves, tin snips, a tape measure, cutting pliers and protective goggles.

Dr. David Crosby, Dr. Brian Nerrie and Dr. Louis Landsman will make presentations at the workshop.

The workshop is free and open to the public. Space is limited, so register early. To register, visit www.ext.vsu.edu/calendar, click on the event and then click on the registration link. 

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 David Crosby at dcrosby@vsu.edu, (804) 712-3771. Please contact Mrs. Debra B. Jones at dbjones@vsu.edu, (804) 524-5496 during the 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.

VSU Receives $249,800 Grant to Expand Urban Agriculture Education Through Distance Learning

Virginia State University has been awarded $249,800 by the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) to expand its urban agriculture education through distance learning.

“On behalf of the Sustainable Urban Agriculture Program, I am very excited about the new grant award, which will to enable us to expand the program and to reach a wider audience through distance education,” said Dr. Leonard Githinji, Extension specialist, sustainable & urban agriculture. “The distance-learning format will give many more people access to course content developed by experts from Virginia State and Virginia Tech Universities, and will appeal to participants who cannot physically attend the classes due to distance or time conflicts.”

Githinji plans to adapt his Sustainable Urban Agriculture Certificate Program from its current face-to-face format to a self-paced, online option that will increase the number of participants. The grant money will help cover the costs of acquiring the technology to deliver the program and supporting the personnel needed to implement the distance learning modules. The online learning format will offer participants some flexibility to complete the course’s 16 modules according to their schedules. Upon completing the program, participants will receive a certificate in Sustainable Urban Agriculture.

The program’s target audience includes Extension educators, Master Gardeners, teachers, home gardeners and commercial growers. At least 17 percent of Virginia’s population is affected by limited food access or food deserts. Urban agriculture, defined as the growing of plants and the raising of animals for food and other uses within and around cities and towns, has a huge potential in mitigating food deserts and situations of limited food access. Urban agriculture can help to remedy food desert situations, create economic opportunities in urban neighborhoods and help to nourish the health and social fabric of communities.

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.

VSU Celebrates Fourth 'Tree Campus USA' Award for its Dedication to Campus Forestry

Dignitaries show Tree Campus USA plaque updated with year 2017 for Virginia State University campus.

Petersburg, Va. – A crowd gathered on the campus of Virginia State University (VSU) on Tuesday for the 2017 Tree Campus USA Award Celebration. It is the fourth consecutive year that VSU has been recognized by the Arbor Day Foundation for its commitment to campus forestry management and environmental stewardship.

“I’d like to recognize the great leadership that has made this possible. It really does take all of us working together, the commitment that you have to this campus, to your green spaces, and to trees,” said Bettina Ring, Virginia’s secretary of agriculture and forestry.

Secretary Ring attended the recertification event along with Senator Rosalyn Dance, a VSU alumna, and administrators from the university.

“I’m proud of all the great stuff that’s happening here,” Dance said. “Tree Campus USA, VSU, all the way!”

“On this day, being honored and recertified is very special to us,” said VSU Provost Dr. Donald E. Palm. “Not only does it bring the community together, it brings the campus together, especially for our students to learn, our faculty to do research. It’s an awesome day.”

Events were held during the morning, including the creation of a living wall of flowers and strawberries. There were also presentations on water quality, sustainable foodand goatscaping, an environmentally friendly alternative to property clearing and weed removal. 

VSU was first named a “Tree Campus USA University” in 2015 and has been recertified annually. The university is only one of four post-secondary institutions in Virginia—along with Old Dominion University, the University of Mary Washington and Virginia Tech—to be recognized. The initiative was led by Joel Koci, associate Extension specialist in urban forestry with the College of Agriculture, who works each year with a committee comprising faculty, students and campus staff. To receive the designation, a university must meet five core standards: establish an advisory committee, develop a campus tree-care plan, allocate annual dedicated expenses of $3 per full-time student; hold a service-learning project; and host an Arbor Day celebration.

“Keep up the great work and thank you for all that you continue to do to support students and learning in agriculture and forestry,” Ring said.

The recertification ceremony was held beside a sycamore tree planted in 2015. The sycamore was selected because it grows large and has a long lifespan. The ceremony ended with the dedication of a plaque to recognize the march in Selma, Alabama, during the Civil Rights movement.

The Arbor Day Foundation is a million-member nonprofit conservation and education organization dedicated to inspiring people to plant, nurture and celebrate trees. J. Sterling Morton, a Nebraska newspaper editor who served as secretary of agriculture under President Grover Cleveland, initiated the Arbor Day holiday in Nebraska in 1872. He is considered the father of Arbor Day nationally. Virginia celebrates Arbor Day is celebrated on the last Friday in April.

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.

VSU Researchers Will Use $475,000 AFRI Grant To Study How to Make Crops More Resilient Under Climate Change

Many crops are experiencing heat stress caused by rising global temperatures, which can result in lower crop yields. With the first 17 years of this century being the hottest on record since 1880 when modern recordkeeping began, staple crops are under increasing threat. Researchers at Virginia State University (VSU) are researching ways to help crops better tolerate extreme temperatures.

Dr. Shuxin Ren and Dr. Guo-liang Jiang, researchers at VSU’s Agricultural Research Station (ARS), have been awarded a three-year, $475,000 grant from the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program. AFRI is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the nation’s leading competitive grants program for agricultural sciences. The focus of this study is a potential heat stress tolerance gene derived from purslane, a unique plant species that tolerates heat stress and drought extremely well. 

“A newly identified gene from purslane has the potential of improving crop production, especially under the stress of elevated temperatures,” said Dr. Ren, associate professor of plant biotechnology. “High-temperature stress will significantly affect agriculture production and warrants quick action by scientists to develop heat-tolerant crops that can thrive in circumstances of heat stress.”

The awarded project will enable the ARS researchers to test the novel gene PoBAG6, isolated from purslane, for its potential to improve crops’ heat tolerance ability. The PoBAG6 gene will be transferred to corn and soybean and researchers will evaluate the ability of the transgenic corn and soybean to tolerate heat.

Laboratory research will also be conducted to evaluate molecular mechanisms used by PoBAG6. Drs. Ren and Jiang aim to identify partner proteins that interact directly with the PoBAG6 protein. It is hoped these newly identified partner proteins can provide new strategies to improve crop heat tolerance, and also enhance existing knowledge about how PoBAG6-mediated gene networks can help plants withstand heat stress.

“This research money will help us to continue to focus on wild species and identify more novel genes that can be used for crops’ abiotic stress tolerance,” Dr. Ren said. “We hope that, upon completion of this three-year project, the PoBAG6 gene can be used to engineer crop species, not only corn and soybeans but others, and enhance their ability to fight against heat stress during their growing seasons.

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.

Celebrate the Faces of Agriculture During Virginia Agriculture Week

By: M. Ray McKinnie, Dean/1890 administrator, College of Agriculture at Virginia State University.

With the arrival of spring comes a perfect time to celebrate the industry and all the people working on the frontlines and behind the scenes. First thoughts may be the farmer on his tractor already at work at dawn, the sun rising over fallow fields, rows of freshly plowed soil. Virginia Agriculture Week is March 18-24, and Tuesday, March 20 is National Agriculture Day. I ask you to think about the people who are the heart and soul of American agriculture and those who support agricultural industries.

For more than 100 years, Virginia State University’s (VSU) College of Agriculture has supported farmers and provided a rigorous curriculum for its students who have gone on to successful careers in agriculture. Our alumnae have made and continue to make notable contributions to the industry, and our current students the next generation of rising stars. Students with Ag degrees pursue careers in state and federal government agencies, in agribusiness, teaching and research, veterinary medicine, and traditional farming and ranching.

These are some of the many and diverse faces of agriculture.

They’re the people who plan and administer 4-H programs, like Dr. Maurice Smith, a 2009 VSU graduate, who recently returned to oversee the university’s 4-H programming with Virginia Cooperative Extension. Smith will develop innovative programs to meet the needs of urban and hard-to-reach youth that are not aware of 4-H. 

They work in state and federal government agencies to advance and implement agricultural policy. Ronald Howell Jr., a 2009 VSU graduate, has had an impressive career with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and most recently served as a special assistant in the Office of the Secretariat for Agriculture and Forestry in Virginia. Dr. Robert Holland, a 1978 VSU graduate, serves as the associate director for operations at USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) after an outstanding career in veterinary medicine.

They have dedicated their entire careers to agriculture. People like Dr. Clint Turner, who is the first Virginian and first VSU alumnus to be inducted into the George Washington Carver Public Service. Turner started as an Extension specialist, then served as associate vice president for agriculture and Extension with the College of Agriculture. He is also a former Virginia commissioner of agriculture and consumer services.

On the frontlines, it’s people like Cliff Somerville, who has spent 30 years working alongside farmers in the field as part of our Small Farm Outreach Program. Dozens of Virginia Cooperative Extension specialists and agents are at work every day at VSU to support farmers across the commonwealth.

And they’re the future of the industry. As one of three universities in the commonwealth that offers a four-year degree in agriculture, VSU prepares the next generation agricultural workforce. VSU students and USDA/1890 Scholars like Ivi Mitchell and Keia Jones will be well equipped to pursue post-graduate studies and careers in agriculture and to contribute in a global economy.

Agriculture is a growth industry. Each year it contributes $70 billion to Virginia’s economy. A study conducted by the UDSA-NIFA and Purdue University, suggests each year there are 57,900 job openings in agriculture and related fields. Annually 35,400 students graduate with a bachelor’s degree or higher in Ag, which means there are 22,500 vacancies. Annual starting salaries in agriculture are more than $51,000.

I strongly encourage urban and rural youth to consider a career in food and agriculture. There are almost limitless opportunities and the future is very bright. Design your preferred future—become an agriculture major!

VSU Offers Free Five-Week Beekeeping for Beginners Course

Beekeeping for Beginners is a free five-week course being held at Hopewell United Methodist Church, 4585 Dry Fork Rd, Dry Fork, VA (Pittsylvania County). Classes will be held for five consecutive Tuesdays beginning January 23, 2018, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. There will also be a field day trip to a hive on Saturday, March 3, weather permitting.

This five-week course is being offered by the Small Farm Outreach Program (SFOP) of Virginia State University (VSU) Cooperative Extension. It is designed for individuals interested in starting a beekeeping operation.

Participants will learn about the history and purpose of beekeeping; the basic biology of bees and equipment needed; getting started and harvesting; and how to manage pests, disorders and parasites. Mike Rogers and Patrick Ferrer from the Pittsylvania County Beekeepers Association will be presenters in the course, along with Berry Hines, a master beekeeper.

Registration is free. To register, visit www.ext.vsu.edu/calendar, click on the event and then click on the registration link. 

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 Agent Cassidy Williams at (804) 704-4033, cwilliams@vsu.edu, or call the Small Farm Outreach Program office at (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.

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.

VSU Receives $600,000 to Assist Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Beginning Farmers and Ranchers

VSU’s Cooperative Extension Small Farm Outreach Program (SFOP) has received a grant award of $600,000 to educate and mentor socially disadvantaged and veteran Virginia beginning farmers and ranchers (SDVBFR) so they have the information they need to allow their farms to be sustainable and economically successful.

The grant is one of 36 totaling $17.7 million funded through fiscal year 2017’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). The BFRDP is a competitive grant program administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) that funds education, extension, outreach, and technical assistance initiatives directed at helping beginning farmers and ranchers of all types. It was authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill to help address issues associated with the rising age and decrease in the number of U.S. farmers and ranchers.

“Agriculture is the number one industry in the commonwealth,” said William Crutchfield, SFOP Director. “But high barriers to entry make farming and ranching one of the hardest careers to pursue, and the number of people entering into farming has been slowly declining each year.”

The average age of the typical Virginia farmer is 59.9 years old. Thirty-six percent of Virginia farmers are 65 years of age or older. The average farm size is 181 acres.

Despite significant hurdles like land acquisition and potentially significant start up costs, there are people who see great opportunities in agriculture today and want to start their own farm or ranch businesses. They tend to be younger on average than those who started farming decades ago and less likely than established farmers to farm full-time. They also tend to operate smaller farms, have more diversified operations and come from non-agricultural backgrounds, which means little to no access to farmland that traditionally is passed down from one generation of farmer to the next.

The BFRDP grant is the only federal program exclusively dedicated to training the next generation of farmers and ranchers. This highly successful initiative provides grants to academic institutions, state Extension programs, producer groups and community organizations to support and train new farmers and ranchers across the country. The program funds everything from production techniques to mentoring new farmers in how to develop a business plan and has proven a critical resource in ensuring the success of the next generation of farmers—one that faces unprecedented challenges pursuing a career in agriculture.

The three-year grant was awarded to VSU’s SFOP program, which specifically targets SDVBFR in 54 Virginia counties. These audiences have been traditionally undeserved and have been plagued by several barriers such as: high start-up costs, limited access to credit and capital, lack of knowledge on land acquisition and transition process, lack of skills in agribusiness and financial planning, lack of adequate production skills, and limited access to existing and viable markets. VSU’s SFOP, in a continued partnership with the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition Program (BFRCP), proposes to address these barriers by using the "Whole Farm Planning" curriculum developed by BFRCP as one of the tools to train these farmers, with the expected result of an improved quality of life for them and their communities. 

Farmers enrolled in the program will begin by attending a small farmer orientation and must commit to attending a series of educational workshops that include estate planning, financial and business management, sustainable production practices and marketing. They will also be connected to a farmer mentor.

If you are farmer interested in joining the program, contact the SFOP at 804-524-3292 or SFOP@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, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.

Past members from once-segregated agriculture and home economics clubs are recognized and honored by Gov. McAuliffe in a formal proclamation

Attendees at the VSU Agriculture Alumni Banquet Friday night where 62 NFA and NHA alumni were honored.

Sixty-two former members of the New Farmers of America (NFA) and New Homemakers of America (NHA) were honored by Virginia Gov. Terry R. McAuliffe Friday night, Nov. 3, at a Virginia State University (VSU) reception. The governor, via video, announced a formal proclamation that recognizes “the contributions and achievements of members of the New Farmers of America and New Homemakers of America in our Commonwealth of Virginia, and I call this observance to the attention of all our citizens.”

Dr. Basil Gooden, Virginia secretary of agriculture and forestry, read aloud the proclamation, which also acknowledged that “Virginia State University recognizes how the NFA and NHA organizations since their inception are deeply-rooted in the rich history of Virginia, its land-grant institutions, and how their values and principles have been etched into the fabric of modern day vocational education programs across the Commonwealth.”

The proclamation also acknowledged, “The Agricultural Alumni Association of Virginia State University has maintained a steadfast commitment to preserving the history of these organizations and recognizing the accomplishments of its members.”

The NFA’s history is rooted at VSU and is a result of the vision of three men: George Washington Owens and J.R. Thomas, both teacher trainers at Virginia State College (now VSU); and Dr. H. O. Sargent, federal agent for agricultural education, U.S. Office of Education. In 1927 these three visionaries organized the New Farmers of Virginia, one of the first organizations in the country aimed at promoting the success of farm youth.

While Owens wrote the constitution for the New Farmers of Virginia and helped lay the foundation for what would later become a national organization (NFA), Sargent lobbied within the Department of Education to officially create an organization in segregated schools. As the idea grew in popularity, chapters formed sporadically throughout the southern states and region. State associations emerged next and then sectional associations based on proximity. These sections held conferences and contests unifying the state associations until a national organization, NFA, was officially created in Tuskegee, Ala. on August 4, 1935. Its objective was to promote agriculture education, leadership, character, thrift, scholarship, cooperation, and citizenship among African-American youth, primarily in the southern states, where schools were segregated by law.

Owens is today recognized as the “father of NFA” and has a building named after him on VSU’s campus, where the majority of the agricultural classes are taught.

As Virginia played a leadership role in the development of a national organization for African-American boys interested in agriculture, so did it for white boys with a similar interest. In 1925, Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College and Polytechnic Institute (now Virginia Tech) organized the Future Farmers of Virginia for white boys in agriculture classes. This Virginia organization became the model for the national Future Farmers of America (FFA), founded in 1928 to bring together white students, teachers and agribusinesses to solidify support for agricultural education.

In 1965, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement and the desegregation of public schools, the African-American NFA and the white FFA merged into one national organization under the FFA name. Today, the FFA remains committed to students of all colors and races, providing a path to achievement in leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.

While girls were not permitted to join the NFA or the FFA in its early years, similar home economics organizations were established for them as early as 1920, but these clubs were not nationally organized until 1945. At that time the New Homemakers of American (NHA) for African-American girls and the Future Homemakers of America (FHA) for white girls were established as national segregated organizations. Like their male counterparts, the two organizations merged in 1965 under the name FHA, and in 1999 changed its name to the Family Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA).

Over several decades the NFA and NHA contributed extensively to organized instructional programs for African-American youth in public schools, who sought to develop their vocational skills, social lives, and pursue careers in agricultural education and home economics. Virginia-chapter members have held leadership positions at local, state and national levels, and have been recognized and received awards for their achievements. Both organizations are rooted in VSU’s rich history and have been instrumental in the development of modern day vocational education programs.

The reunion was hosted by the VSU Agriculture Alumni Association and was included as part of the group’s 36th Annual Recognition Banquet. VSU’s Agriculture Alumni Association is committed to preserving the history of the NFA and NHA and recognizing the accomplishments of its members. More than 165 total guests attended the banquet.

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. 

VSU's Randolph Farm Hosts Popular Ginger and Turmeric Field Day

Virginia State University (VSU) is bringing back its ever-popular Ginger and Turmeric Field Day on Nov. 16, from 8 a.m. to noon at the university’s Randolph Farm, 4415 River Road, Petersburg, VA.

This Cooperative Extension event will include indoor classroom presentations and a visit to the fields where participants will learn about harvest, washing and market preparation for the two crops.

“Both ginger and turmeric are considered healthy spices. Nationwide, the consumption of ginger and turmeric has increased significantly,” said Dr. Reza Rafie, VSU Extension horticulture specialist. “Participants will learn about the proper conditions for growing and marketing ginger and turmeric.”

The event will feature several guest speakers, including Dr. Shoba Ghosh, associate chair for research in the Department of Internal Medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, who conducts clinical research using turmeric; and Dr. Theresa Nartea, VSU Extension specialist in marketing & agribusiness, and Wanda Johnson, VSU Extension associate culinary demonstration specialist.

Local ginger growers Bill Cox from Casselmonte Farm, Michael Clark from Planet Earth Diversified, and Richard Harrison from the Farm at the Red Hill will share their experiences with participants and answer questions. Several buyers will also attend the field day and visit with potential new growers.

Ginger and turmeric are flavorful spices commonly used in cooking. Ginger is a flowering, herbaceous, perennial plant; turmeric is a plant in the ginger family. Each has medicinal properties that can be traced back thousands of years. Small farmers can produce these niche crops for health-conscious consumers.

Registration is $10 per person. To register visit www.ext.vsu.edu/calendar, click on the event and then click on the registration link. 

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 Agriculture & Natural Resources Program office at (804) 524-5960 / (800) 828-1120 (TDD) 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.

VSU To Host 30th Annual Aquaculture Field Day

The status of small-scale freshwater aquaculture in Virginia is the theme of the 30th Annual Aquaculture Field Day being held Oct. 19 beginning at 8:30 am at Randolph Farm, 4415 River Road, Ettrick. The Cooperative Extension Aquaculture Program at Virginia State University hosts this annual event.

Dr. Brian Nerrie, assistant professor and aquaculture extension specialist, will give this year’s keynote address. His talk will focus on how the industry has diversified since 1988 from the initial emphasis on hybrid striped bass to recent expansion into freshwater shrimp in ponds and greenhouse aquaponics.

“Today, there’s a growing awareness by consumers of quality food, and locally produced aquaculture fits in with that,” Nerrie said. “Locally produced fish is healthy, available fresh to consumers and helps local economies.”

This year’s field day will provide the opportunity for registrants to rotate between multiple stations featuring pond production of catfish, largemouth bass, bluegill and freshwater shrimp. In addition, pond cage culture and aeration systems will be presented. Indoor stations will include aquaponics, tilapia production, tilapia hatchery and a small aquaculture product taste testing.

Virginia State University’s Aquaculture Program conducts important research in freshwater aquaculture, provides an important resource for limited-resource farmers and helps determine what consumers want. Through its research and outreach efforts, Virginia State University’s Aquaculture Program, as part of Virginia Cooperative Extension, is contributing to Virginia’s $91 billion agriculture and forestry industries.

Registration is $20 per person and includes lunch. Farm-raised catfish will be served for lunch. To register visit www.ext.vsu.edu/calendar, click on the event and then click on the registration link. 

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 Debra B. Jones at dbjones@vsu.edu or call (804) 524-5496 / (800) 828-1120 (TDD) 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.

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.
 

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