Greenhouse fans whir at Mike Calhoun’s hydroponic lettuce-growing operation while workers harvest the four varieties grown at Stover Shop Greenhouses in Churchville, Virginia.
Calhoun’s farming operation is certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) program, an initiative that requires an internal audit of bookkeeping, growing, and production operations. Once growers pass the audit, they can apply for a GAP logo to display on packaging.
Nearly 250 Master Gardeners from across Virginia will attend the 27th annual Master Gardener College at Virginia Tech June 25-29.
The conference, hosted by Virginia Cooperative Extension, offers continuing education for its more than 5,500 Master Gardener volunteers.
More than 500 teens, volunteer leaders, and Virginia Cooperative Extension agents will gather on Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus June 16-19 for the 94th annual 4-H State Congress.
This year’s theme, “Celebrating the Past, Making It Last,” draws on the history of 4-H and demonstrates the power of 4-H to assist teens in developing leadership, citizenship, and life skills through hands-on educational programs.
In the 13 years since the brown marmorated stink bug was discovered in Pennsylvania, the voracious insect has made a slow and steady march toward Virginia. It was found in the commonwealth in 2004, and it has caused millions of dollars in damage as it destroyed apples and grapes in the Shenandoah Valley, pierced soybeans in north-central fields, and sucked the proteins and carbohydrates out of corn, tomato, green bean, and pepper plants in other parts of the state.
Since the 1914 Smith-Lever Act established the national Cooperative Extension System, Virginia Cooperative Extension has delivered the knowledge and resources of the state’s two land-grant universities — Virginia Tech and Virginia State University — to the people.
Society and its issues have changed during the past 100 years, but Extension’s mission has never wavered.
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.
Sustainability and education are more important than ever, especially when it comes to our natural resources. In response to these demands, Virginia’s Sustainable Harvesting and Resource Professional Logger Program is working to educate loggers and foresters across the state to help them operate in changing markets while implementing sustainable best management practices.
The average person uses as much as 100 gallons of water a day. Imagine having to regularly test water quality and maintain your own water system.
This is an issue 1.7 million Virginians with private water supplies have to deal with. Sharon Beasley is one of many who is concerned with her home’s water quality.
Youth and their families make lots of sacrifices during military deployments. Children with mothers or fathers in the military can go for months without seeing or hearing from one or both of their parents. To alleviate some of the issues that come with deployment, Virginia 4-H is helping youth from military families through two programs: 4-H Military Clubs and Operation: Military Kids.
The past few years have brought financial challenges to many people throughout the commonwealth. One in every nine Virginians lives at or below the poverty level and the current economic climate has only emphasized the need for additional financial education.
Virginia Cooperative Extension has taken steps to help fill this need through its Master Financial Education Volunteer Program. The MFEV program focuses on helping families build their financial capability through classes on topics such as managing money, planning for home ownership, getting out of debt, retirement planning, and preventing identity theft. The program also provides one-on-one mentoring.
Virginia Cooperative Extension’s 4-H horse program will participate in the inaugural parade for Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe in Richmond on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014.
The parade begins immediately following the swearing-in ceremony that begins at noon in Richmond’s Capitol Square.
Pulses quickened, hair was primped, and choreography was given a last-minute run through as contestants readied themselves for a morning of ring competition and agility skills at the 42nd annual 4-H State Dog Show.
And those were just the four-legged participants.
The 2013 Virginia 4-H All-Star Livestock Judging Team traveled to Omaha, Neb., where they took first high team overall against 28 other teams in the Ak-Sar-Ben Livestock Judging Contest on September 28.
The team also took first in sheep and goats, second in reasons, third in swine, and fifth in beef.
The Bedford County Master Gardeners group placed third in the International Master Gardener Search for Excellence contest.
Their project, “Therapeutic Gardening,” won third place in the Special Needs Audiences category — one of seven project categories. Winners were announced in September at the 2013 International Master Gardener Conference in Alaska.
Lynchburg Grows and Virginia Cooperative Extension celebrated the important role that agriculture plays in the commonwealth’s economy and the designation of October as Urban Agriculture Month in Virginia with a ceremony at the Lynchburg Grows H.R. Schenkel Urban Farm and Environmental Center in Lynchburg on Oct. 17.
Virginia’s wine industry generates $747 million for the state’s economy. According to a 2012 report released by the governor’s office, that figure more than doubles a 2005 estimate of how much the industry would grow in seven years.
But long before grape juice is pressed and wine is bottled for consumers, growers must consider a staggering amount of variables in deciding where to plant vines and which varieties are best suited to a particular soil. Growers in the Eastern United States will soon have help in evaluating land for vineyard suitability using a Web-based application.
Since 1994, Virginia 4-H has provided training and support for CHARACTER COUNTS!, an education program developed by the California-based Josephson Institute of Ethics, which promotes character education throughout the country.
In 2004, Glenda Snyder, senior Virginia Cooperative Extension agent emeritus, introduced CHARACTER COUNTS! to schools in Brazil. She was invited by Partners of the Americas, a humanitarian organization, to train school personnel and implement character education. At the time, Brazilian school systems were characterized by high rates of violence and crime.
The 2013 Virginia Ag Expo will be hosted by Land of Promise Farms, operated by the Don Horsley family, in Virginia Beach, Va. on August 1, 2013.
The Expo is the largest agricultural field day held in the Commonwealth of Virginia annually. More than 140 exhibitors and sponsors will be showcasing the latest farm equipment, goods, and services for all agricultural producers and property owners no matter how large or small. The gates open at 7:30 a.m. with field tours beginning at 8 a.m.
Five hundred teens, volunteer leaders, and Virginia Cooperative Extension agents will gather at Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus June 17-20, for the 93rd annual 4-H State Congress. This year’s theme, “The Path to Success, Luck Has Nothing to Do with It,” draws on the six pillars of character that are the foundation of the 4-H philosophy and demonstrates how young people can live as exemplary citizens through the life skills they learn as 4-H members.
Bed bugs are natural parasites of people, evolving with human populations for the past 35,000 years. Insecticides developed in the 20th century nearly eradicated bed bugs from developed nations, but since the early 2000s, population growth and increased international travel, as well as mounting pesticide resistance, have brought bed bugs back with a vengeance.
Katie Goodman, a member of the South Anna 4-H Club in Hanover County, Va., is gaining recognition for her work to feed the hungry.
“She just amazes me. She’s just this ordinary little girl who does extraordinary things,” said Rita Schalk, 4-H youth agent in Hanover County.
Professor Carl Griffey’s research to develop new strains of wheat does more than help the nation’s grain producers compete in the global market. His work also generates millions of dollars for the commonwealth and Virginia Tech.
The trees that line the streets and sidewalks of Virginia do a lot more than make the commonwealth’s cities beautiful — they help create a more vibrant and healthier place to live. The College of Natural Resources and Environment at Virginia Tech is a leader in ensuring that these urban forests are protected and continue to be a vital part of our landscape.
The Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine contributes to the success of Virginia’s beef and dairy producers through programs that add value to the state’s livestock while safeguarding its food supply.
Veterinarians Dee Whittier and John Currin - Virginia Cooperative Extension faculty members in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences - are training Extension agents and livestock producers across the commonwealth through the Virginia Beef Quality Assurance Program. The program adds $1.5 million to $2 million to the value of cattle on Virginia’s certified farms, according to data compiled annually by Extension specialists and agents.
Over the past nine years, Virginia Cooperative Extension has pioneered a research-based program that has motivated 30,000 Virginia children to lead healthier lives through good nutrition, physical activity, and bodyimage awareness.
Virginia 4-H members joined millions of their cohorts across the nation to participate in 4-H National Youth Science Day on Oct. 10. This year’s experiment, “4-H Eco-Bot Challenge,” tasked participants with creating a robot that could clean up a simulated toxic spill.
Recent reforms of U.S. food safety laws have left farmers and growers scrambling to comply with new regulations. With training created and provided by Virginia Cooperative Extension, farmers in Virginia and adjoining states are proactively writing their food safety plans and having their farms audited for U.S. Department of Agriculture Good Agricultural Practices certification.
It’s hard to compete for a child’s attention these days when television shows, computer programs, and video games tend to be favorite pastimes.
So Virginia Cooperative Extension agents decided that if you can’t beat them, you might as well join them. They are using iPads to enhance educational programming and keep children engaged.
BLACKSBURG, Va., Feb. 6, 2013 – The agriculture and food system is an extensive, open, interconnected, diverse, and complex network. Any disease, pest, or poisonous agent — whether it occurs naturally, is unintentionally introduced, or is intentionally introduced by acts of terrorism — could potentially cause catastrophic health effects or economic losses to the United States.
BLACKSBURG, Va., Feb. 4, 2013 – Virginia's bountiful and beautiful forests provide a source of great enjoyment for locals and tourists from other states. Hiking the Appalachian Trail, enjoying the views from the Blue Ridge Parkway, floating the James River, or hunting the rural woodlands of Southside are all popular pastimes.
Helen B. Williams has dedicated her life to serving the agricultural community in Amherst County, Va., and in the process, she's earned the distinction of being the longest serving employee at Virginia Tech, which has more than 7,000 employees across the country.
BLACKSBURG, Va., Dec. 12, 2012 – Wintertime — especially during the holidays — can be a risky time for health and safety. Virginia Cooperative Extension safety specialist Bobby Grisso has some tips to keep your family and home safe this holiday season.
Live Christmas trees and electrical lights make the holiday season the most dangerous time of year for house fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association, Christmas trees cause about 530 house fires every year, and holiday lights cause an additional 150 fires.
Choose a recently cut tree and take measures to keep it fresh at home. Cut off the bottom 2 inches of the trunk and keep it in water at all times. A tree can “drink” up to a pint of water per day. “Water uptake is the best single means of keeping your tree safe and fresh,” Grisso said.
BLACKSBURG, Va., Nov. 19, 2012 – Many families use credit cards to check off everything on their holiday shopping lists. However, if families do not have a well-planned budget, January can be rough when the credit card bills start rolling in. Karen Poff, Virginia Cooperative Extension family and consumer sciences agent, has some tips for planning ahead to avoid the January bills-are-due blues.
“Only you can decide the amount you can afford to spend on the holidays,” Poff said. Choose an amount that you can pay off as early as possible. An amount that can be paid back within a few months is ideal to prevent needless spending on interest. “The interest on credit card charges can add up to hundreds of dollars,” Poff said.
Many families spend 1 to 5 percent of their total annual income on holiday expenses. Whether you choose to stay on the lower or higher end of that range depends on your financial situation.
Virginia Cooperative Extension has selected Maxwell Watkins of Sutherland, Va., as the Virginia Farmer of the Year — an award that recognizes individual contributions to the commonwealth’s agriculture industry.
Watkins, a sixth-generation farmer, was recognized at the Virginia Junior Livestock Expo in Harrisonburg on Oct. 13.
“We are pleased to honor Maxwell Watkins with this award,” said Robert Grisso, associate director of agriculture and natural resources for Virginia Cooperative Extension. “He is an example of the enterprising spirit demonstrated through hard work on the farm and developing a startup business. His marketing and land conservation measures are examples of how farm enterprises will remain sustainable for the next six generations. His desire to partner with his two sons is a true inspiration.”
Watkins, who operates Watkins Farm in partnership with his family, farms more than 2,800 acres — 2,700 acres rented and 115 acres owned. While soybeans, wheat, and flue-cured tobacco provide the bulk of his farm income, he also raises fescue and ladino clover for hay.
These folks love food, and they love telling others about food even more. They are Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Master Food Volunteers.
Whether helping to teach a workshop on food preparation, educating children about making healthy food choices, or answering food safety questions at a farmers market, these volunteers are passionate about food.
The Master Food Volunteer Program launched in 2009 to help family and consumer science Extension agents reach more Virginians with information about the importance of good nutrition, healthy living, and food safety.
Gordon Groover, a Virginia Cooperative Extension economist and associate professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, was recently awarded the 2012 Andy Swiger Land-Grant Award.
Groover directs the commonwealth’s agricultural use taxation program, which educates Virginians on the value of agricultural lands and assists local leaders who set and collect property taxes.
A new video series produced by Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Virginia Cooperative Extension titled “A Lawn to Dye For” helps homeowners create their own signature lawn without harming the environment. In a series of seven videos, Virginia Tech’s Head Golf Coach Jay Hardwick teams up with the university’s turf grass experts to provide tips on every aspect of lawn care from initial seeding to proper water techniques. The series also shows how managing lawn clippings and fertilizers can help curb water pollution.
A sweep of Abraham Lincoln’s pen 150 years ago led to the creation of Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College, now called Virginia Tech. Without Lincoln’s decisive action, the land-grant system, which gave Americans greater access to higher education, might never have happened. Read More.
Virginia Cooperative Extension has released several of its most popular publications in e-book format, such as “Boiling Water Bath Canning – Including Jams, Jellies, and Pickled Products,” “Pruning Peach Trees,” and “Aerating Your Lawn.” Additional titles will be released each month. Read more.
Cynthia Kinser, chief justice of the Virginia Supreme Court, speaks with Southwest Virginia delegates during 4-H State Congress at Virginia Tech on Monday, June 20. A native of Lee County, Kinser also spoke to the 500 teens, volunteer leaders, and Extension agents at the opening assembly about her early experiences in Virginia 4-H and how she adopted its motto, “To make the best better,” as her own. In 2010, Kinser became the first woman to hold the title of chief justice on the Virginia Supreme Court. Read more.
As the nation’s government and education officials search for ways to better prepare students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, a program developed by the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute and Virginia Cooperative Extension’s 4-H youth development program is returning to Virginia Tech’s campus in January of 2011. A groundbreaking program for youth ages 9 to 12, Kids’ Tech University offers sessions with internationally recognized scientists and hands-on activities. Read more.
Representatives from Virginia Tech and Virginia State University join Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and several Extension volunteers to celebrate the beginning of Virginia Cooperative Extension Volunteer Month at the Virginia State Fair on Oct. 1. Following Gov. Bob McDonnell’s declaration of October as Extension Volunteer Month, Virginians have been recognizing the accomplishments of the more than 36,000 Extension volunteers who donate their time and talents every year. Extension has been focusing on specific aspects of the organization each week: first, 4-H volunteers; second, ELC members and community viability volunteers; third, agriculture and natural resources volunteers; and fourth, family and consumer science volunteers. Share your stories about Extension volunteers on our Facebook page.
With the summer in full swing, many of Virginia’s youth are looking for fun activities to connect with their peers and pursue their interests. Each summer, the 4-H camping program teaches more than 16,000 young Virginians about decision-making, communication, teamwork, and other valuable life skills. The 4-H camping website has information on the different types of camping experiences available at the six 4-H educational centers located throughout Virginia.
Modeled after the successful Master Gardener program, the newly developed Master Beekeeper program provides field experience and guidance to volunteers who will assist beekeepers across the state. The program, which has already attracted about 60 beekeepers in its first module, will systematize the commonwealth’s beekeeper training through individual certifications ranging from Certified Beekeeper to Master Beekeeper. Read more in Master Beekeeping Program – Sweet as Honey, an article in the 2010 issue of Innovations.
More than 400 teens, volunteer leaders, and Virginia Cooperative Extension agents pieced together the 4-H puzzle at the 90th annual 4-H State Congress on Virginia Tech’s campus from June 14-17. This year, 4-H delegates had an opportunity to discover the science behind the operation of a typical dairy farm, turn trash into recycled treasures, rehearse and perform a step routine, learn about interesting career paths in the horticulture industry, or extract DNA from strawberries. In addition to workshops, competitions, and assemblies, 4-H State Congress let participants experience what life might be like as a Tech student.
The first 4-H clubs in Virginia started 100 years ago. Although much has changed in the past century, Extension’s 4-H youth development program continues to form a community of young people who learn about leadership, citizenship, and life skills through hands-on experiences. A university spotlight on achievement highlights a few of the many ways 4-H has a positive impact on more than 150,000 youth in Virginia.
Members of the 4-H Heritage Club learn about life on a family farm during the pre-Civil War period from a National Park Service employee at the Booker T. Washington National Monument in Hardy, Va. The group of teens and preteens, which was preparing to interpret farm activities for the public in the above photo, conquered their fear of public speaking and learned about Virginia’s history and agriculture along the way. Read more in Preparing for the Future by Reliving the Past, an article in the 2010 issue of Innovations.
Tim Mize, agricultural and natural resources Extension agent and unit coordinator in Fauquier County, and Al Kellert, owner of Gray Ghost Vineyards, discuss the winemaking process. A network of Extension agents and specialists provide educational resources and find solutions to the problems that Virginia’s emerging wine industry faces. Read more in From the Vineyard to the Winery, a cover article in the 2010 issue of Innovations.
More than 800 people sampled fresh and flavorful local foods from 45 vendors at the Taste of the Roanoke Valley Food Expo, held recently near Daleville, Va., and coordinated by Extension’s Alleghany, Botetourt, Craig, and Roanoke offices.
The day was pulled together under the leadership of Extension agents Sheri Dorn, Cassie Driskill, and Andy Allen. The crowd well exceeded the group's hope for 500 attendees for this first-time event. Photo: Ann Harrell/Cassie Driskill
John Thompson, agriculture and natural resources Extension agent in Fluvanna County, discusses locally-grown eggs with a producer participating in the Fluvanna Farmers Market. Learn more.
What better place to talk nutrition and economics than right in a grocery store – and better yet – in a Walmart? Learn more.
4-H'ers work on a recycling project while attending the 89th Virginia 4-H State Congress on June 15-18.
Youth from across Virginia participated in hands-on workshops, competitions, service learning, assemblies, and social events during the week, while focusing on the theme, "Constructing the Future Through 4-H." Learn more about 4-H programs.
Extension agriculture and natural resources agents David Smith, of Cumberland County (left), and Jason Carter, of Augusta County, work with cattle at the Alphin-Stuart Livestock Teaching Arena at Virginia Tech during a recent Beef Quality Assurance training session.
Learn more about Certified Beef Quality Assurance Producers.
A recent event at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts brought together the Virginia 4-H Cabinet and the Virginia 4-H Foundation Board to better acquaint the two groups with each other. The 4-H'ers represented the tangible outcomes of the 4-H program for the board members, and the youth learned more about the Foundation and its role as an advocate for the 4-H program. The venue, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, promoted the inclusion of the arts in 4-H programming, and also allowed the cabinet members to participate in 4-H Day at the Capitol.
Welcome to the new Virginia Cooperative Extension website. We are pleased to unveil our new look and improved navigation. You'll find updated versions of most everything from our old site here, as well as some new features. Please pardon a little construction dust as we fine tune the site and check back often to see what is new.
Peter Huber, Pulaski County Administrator, was recognized with the Virginia Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences' 2009 Advocate Award on May 12. Huber, who currently serves as Chair of the Virginia Cooperative Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Leadership Council, was commended for his support of the entire Extension program in his community and for his volunteer service to VCE. He was honored for his strong advocacy for family and consumer sciences programs at local and state levels and for publicly supporting the importance of strong families in building strong communities.