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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.

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 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.

VSU Announces Interim Assistant Administrator for Programs for Cooperative Extension

Doris Heath has been appointed interim assistant administrator for programs with Cooperative Extension at Virginia State University (VSU).

“We are so delighted to have Doris Heath serving in this position. Her extensive leadership skills, thorough knowledge of Extension programs and her passion for VSU make her a true asset to Cooperative Extension and to the College of Agriculture,” said Dr. Jewel Bronaugh, executive director for VSU’s Center for Agriculture, Research, Engagement and Outreach.

As interim assistant administrator of programs, Heath will provide oversight to Extension specialists at VSU; help specialists develop their plan of work; serve as a liaison between Cooperative Extension at VSU and Virginia Tech (VT) and create opportunities for collaborations; assist in developing strategies and processes for Extension; and improve operational effectiveness and efficiencies.

“Mrs. Heath will draw on her vast Extension experience to enhance the collaboration between Extension specialists and agents and ensure our programs are aligned with Cooperative Extension’s mission. We welcome Mrs. Heath to VSU and look forward to her making significant contributions,” said Dr. M. Ray McKinnie, dean/1890 Extension program administrator of the College of Agriculture.

Heath brings a wealth of leadership and program-building experience to her new position, including 29 years working as an Extension agent with Cooperative Extension at VT, and serving as VCE Southeast district director. She has created needs-based programs and has many years’ experience serving on committees and boards of directors, including terms as president-elect, president and past-president of the Virginia Association of Family and Consumer Sciences. She has also worked locally with citizens and municipal governments.

In accepting the position, Heath said, “I’m excited to have the opportunity to serve the university, to engage with Extension specialists and agents to learn about their accomplishments and how we can build on the work they’re already doing.” A VSU alumna, Heath she said she has a “great appreciation” for the university where she earned her bachelor’s degree in home economics business and her master’s degree in home economics education.

Extension is a joint program of Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and state and local governments. Virginia Cooperative Extension programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, veteran status, or any other basis protected by law. An equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.

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.

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. 

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