The Agricultural Research and Extension Centers are a network of 11 research centers located throughout the state that emphasize the close working relationship between the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station and Virginia Cooperative Extension. “Inside the ARECs” highlights the work and accomplishments of these 11 centers and will appear in every Insights.
The Eastern Shore Agricultural and Research Extension Center in Painter, Virginia recently welcomed two new faculty members. Assistant Professor of Horticulture and Extension Specialist Ramon Arancibia and Assistant Professor of Food Science and Technology and Virginia Cooperative Extension Specialist Laura Strawn came on board this fall.
Both Arancibia and Strawn are furthering the center’s mission to support the sustainability of agriculture in Virginia through vegetable and field crop research, Extension, and education programs.
The goal of Arancibia’s horticulture research and extension program is to improve sustainability of Virginia’s vegetable crop industry. His research activities are concentrated on sustainable production systems such as organic production; plasticulture, including mulching, rowcover and high tunnels; and micro-irrigation in vegetable crops. Arancibia’s outreach activities are focused on building a bridge between researchers, Extension personnel, and stakeholders to address their needs with tangible results that will enhance the quality of life within the community.
Strawn, who comes to Virginia Tech from Cornell University, is focused on food safety. Her research examines the ecology and epidemiology of food-borne pathogens — specifically Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes — in produce production environments. Her recent studies have investigated the use of geographical information systems modeling to predict pathogen prevalence based on remotely-sensed landscape and meteorological factors, the association between pathogen presence and management practices to quantify likelihood of contamination in produce fields, and the application of subtyping-based source tracking of pathogens in the produce production environment.
In an interview with Americanfarm.com, Strawn said that she envisions her work with GIS could be developed into a program that could show an area of a field that had a high food safety risk due to its proximity to surface water, impervious surfaces, animal pastures, or moisture in the soil.