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.
Plow-based mule-powered tilling systems were the latest technology when the Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center started its operation in 1914. Today, tractors guided by GPS-guided steering systems do the heavy lifting at the center.
Along with Virginia Cooperative Extension, the Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Suffolk, Virginia celebrated its centennial this year, and though a lot has changed about how research is performed, the mission to serve growers in the area has remained the same.
The Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center started with one person, 20 acres of rented land, a mule, and a tiny white frame two-room building. It has grown to 24 full time employees, 379 acres of land, and 33 buildings and other structures. This off-campus field station of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University began operation on April 6th, 1914 near the town of Holland in southeast Virginia as The Nansemond County Experiment Station. The name was later changed to Holland Experiment Station and then Tidewater Field Station. Numerous name modifications have occurred over the years with Tidewater remaining constant as this is the principle area of Virginia served by the center. The present name, Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center, represents its dual research and extension role.
As the result of a state appropriation of approximately $3,500, E. Taylor Batten, an agronomy graduate of Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College and Polytechnic Institute was hired as the first superintendent. During the early years of the center, Batten worked single-handedly or sometimes hired local labor to assist in conducting field experiments on peanut, corn, soybean, and cotton. One of the important buildings at the center that houses graduate student and technician offices, a peanut quality laboratory and scientific literature is affectionately named “Batten Hall” by the faculty and staff at the center.