The Dan River region of Virginia is one of the most health-disparate regions of the United States. The area that stretches from Patrick to Halifax counties has a diabetes rate that is almost 50 percent higher than the rest of the country and a 5 percent higher rate of obesity; 17 percent of the area’s residents live below the federal poverty level. One in four do not have health insurance.
Fortunately, researchers in Virginia Tech’s Department of Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise are working on a solution to improve the health of the region.
Virginia Tech is leading the effort to use the new online research-based learning network eXtension to promote forest farming — the cultivation of high-value specialty crops under a forest canopy.
Launched in 2008, eXtension was created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Cooperative Extension System as a virtual space for practitioners, researchers, and extension and agency professionals to exchange ideas and information as well as produce new educational resources on a wide range of topics organized as “resource areas.”
Virginia’s pork production legacy is well-known, but recently, the heavy demand for corn grain across industries, as well as in nonfood-producing endeavors such as ethanol production, has reduced profits for hog producers.
“A lot of the Mid-Atlantic States are grain-deficit, and they have to import grain to feed their livestock,” said Gordon Groover, Extension economist and associate professor of agricultural and applied economics.
Virginia’s poultry and egg industries provide a direct economic impact of more than $3.6 billion to Virginia’s economy, according to the Virginia Poultry Federation. With the continuing threat of disease outbreaks in the poultry industry, including the highly publicized avian influenza, poultry growers are taking no chances.
Each year, more than 27,000 young people participate in 4-H camping programs at Virginia Cooperative Extension’s six 4-H educational centers.
Both residential and day camping programs have a rich history of providing educational programming to thousands of youth through hands-on, experiential learning.