Tag Archives: AREC

Inside the ARECS — Summer AREC tour

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.

Each year new faculty and others members of the university community are invited to participate in a two-day tour of selected Agricultural Research and Extension Centers.

This year the tour featured stops at the Southern Piedmont AREC in Blackstone, the Hampton Roads AREC in Virginia Beach, and the Tidewater AREC in Suffolk. Participants included new faculty, CALS administrative personnel, library and facilities representatives, and a guest from the Farm Bureau. The tour was intended to introduce the AREC system to individuals both inside Virginia Tech and external to the university, help new faculty to learn about off-campus facilities and resources available to them, and meet potential collaborators among AREC faculty and staff. Continue reading

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MARE Center and National Sporting Library & Museum team up on land stewardship symposium

Water quality expert teaches symposium participants.

Participants learned about water quality best management practices in a hands-on workshop at the MARE. Center.

Bridgett McIntosh

Bridgett McIntosh was the 2015 recipient of the Equine Science Society’s Outstanding Young Professional Award. This award recognizes an individual under 40 with less than 10 years of service in academia or industry, who has made meritorious contributions to equine science, teaching, research, public service, or industry. Bridgett is the Virginia Cooperative Extension Equine Extension specialist in the Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences housed at the MARE Center in Middleburg, Virginia.

The horse industry plays an important role in Virginia’s agricultural and economic landscape with some 41,000 horse farms and a $1.2 billion impact on the state’s economy overall. While the industry has continued to grow despite a rise in land costs and diminishing acreage, horse owners and farm managers need innovative solutions to maximize the health and well-being of their horses and the land. To address these needs, The Middleburg Agricultural Research and Extension Center and the National Sporting Library & Museum teamed up to present a new program “Spotlight on Stewardship: Equine Land Management Symposium” on June 26 – 27. The event combined the latest in scientific research with hands-on learning experiences and the inimitable richness of Middleburg’s equestrian culture. About 75 equine enthusiasts from the mid-Atlantic region enjoyed participating in the dynamic symposium on land stewardship that spanned two days and included sessions at both locations. “Judging from the enthusiasm surrounding the symposium and the popular feedback we are continuing to receive, we are confident that this will become an annual event,” said Bridgett McIntosh, Extension equine specialist at the MARE Center, who was responsible for organizing the event. The MARE Center’s mission, as part of the state’s land grant Cooperative Extension research farms, is to improve equine management while enhancing land stewardship. Given the MARE Center’s scenic location in the heart of Virginia’s horse country, an event combining cutting-edge scientific knowledge with the richness of local equestrian and rural culture was a natural fit. The symposium covered a host of topics centered on equine and environmental health. The first day laid the groundwork with talks about preserving open space and managing equine farms for soil and water conservation. The next day, speakers delved into the history of pasture management in the region, using pasture-based nutrition in breeding operations, and situations in which pasture alone isn’t enough for horses.

John Galbraith teaches symposium participants about soil quality.

An in-depth workshop on soil health at the MARE Center was a favorite among participants.

Fittingly, among invited guest speakers were alumni of the Virginia Tech MARE Center including Amy Burk, associate professor and Extension specialist, University of Maryland; Kathleen Crandell, equine nutritionist, Kentucky Equine Research; Burt Staniar, associate professor of equine science, Pennsylvania State University; Carey Williams, associate Extension specialist and associate professor, Rutgers University; and Tania Cubitt, equine nutritionist, performance horse nutrition. Following lectures both mornings at the National Sporting Library & Museum, hands-on workshops were held at the MARE Center each afternoon led by natural resource and forage professionals from Virginia Cooperative Extension and other state organizations. Participants learned about a diverse array of equine land management issues including soil health, water quality, and pasture management in an applicable field setting. Tours of both sites, optional trips to wine tasting at Boxwood Winery via a hayride and an “Open Late” Virginia Tech Alumni Night at the National Sporting Library with the Piedmont Symphony Orchestra were also part of the event. A planned outing to a polo match has been rescheduled for Aug. 8 due to rain, but the wet weather did nothing to dampen participants’ spirits: “I would deem every speaker, topic, and all materials absolutely first rate!” one participant concluded.

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Inside the ARECs — President Sands tours Hampton Roads

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.

President Sands at HRAREC

President Sands, center, visits faculty and staff at Hampton Roads AREC.

Virginia Tech President Timothy D. Sands recently visited the Hampton Roads AREC where he took a tour of the facility and got a chance to meet with faculty, staff and students who are working at the center. Just a few months ago, Sands had taken the opportunity to visit the Eastern Shore AREC.

Director Pete Schultz gave President Sands a tour of the building and told him of the evolution of the center from the Virginia Truck Experimental Station in 1907 to the modern research and Extension facility it is now. President Sands toured the lab of Assistant Professor of Horticulture, Jim Owen, who spoke about his work with the nursery industry. President Sands then visited with Chuan Hong, a professor of plant pathology, physiology, and weed science, who spoke about his multistate project focusing on pathogen control in irrigation water being used in nurseries and also his research on the emerging boxwood blight which is currently threatening the eastern nursery industry. Horticulture Research Associate Laurie Fox then gave President Sands a tour of the gardens around the AREC, which were just starting to bloom. Continue reading

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Charles Barrack — April Employee of the Month

Charles Lin Barrack, research specialist at the Eastern Virginia Agricultural Research and Extension Center, has been selected as the April Employee of the Month!

Charles Barrack receiving his Employee of the Month award from Bob Pitman, superintendent of the Eastern Virginia Agricultural Research & Extension Center

Charles Barrack receiving his Employee of the Month award from Bob Pitman, superintendent of the Eastern Virginia Agricultural Research & Extension Center

Charles’ nominator praised him, noting that he “excels at managing farm operations at the Eastern Virginia AREC. He anticipates what is needed to perform all of the varied and complex tasks required in the programs and allocates time and resources to get those jobs done in as timely manner as possible.” His dedication, leadership, and interest result in high marks from faculty, and he is flexible and resourceful enough to adapt to changes and weather constraints.

He thinks ahead, foresees potential issues and alternative courses of action, and brings them to attention. Most notably, Charles’ nominator says that people “always value his opinion, advice, and support. His performance as farm manager is exemplary.”

Congratulations, Charles!

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Inside the ARECS: Southern Piedmont AREC

Insights SPAREC

Kids learned about baking and how wheat is turned into flour during Agricultural Awareness Days at SPAREC. Other activities included extracting DNA from strawberries and learning about the importance of soil health for growing food.

The Southern Piedmont Agricultural Research and Extension Center’s mission is to serve the university, the agricultural industry, and the citizens of the commonwealth through research endeavors and a high quality Extension program. Research programs at the center focus on tobacco production, forage, and small fruit production such as wine grapes and strawberries.

Recently the center opened its doors in order to engage the community through programming geared towards fifth graders by hosting  Agricultural Awareness Days from April 21 -23. The event exposed fifth graders to STEM education through activities like baking and gardening.

King Arthur Flour returned for the fifth consecutive year in 2015 to head up the baking day where kids not only learned about the bread baking process, but also developed math, science, reading and planning skills; engaged the creative side of their brains; and learned about wheat production and how wheat becomes flour. At the end of the day students keep one loaf and work with the Southside Gleaning Network to donate the other loaves to different organizations that distribute bread to families in need in each county. The event has been so successful that the SPAREC workshop has become the template for how King Arthur Flour conducts their baking demonstration programs in schools across the country.

The flour company’s outreach activities are part of the King Arthur Flour Bake for Good, Kids Learn, Bake, Share program.  During the program each baker-in-training takes home materials to make two loaves of bread, provided by King Arthur Flour, and the know-how to bake on his or her own.

Virginia Cooperative Extension also conducted hands-on, inquiry-based learning modules. Students built an animal cell, extracted DNA from strawberries, learned about molecules and polymers by playing with “Oobleck,” and learned about the Earth’s resources by dissecting an apple.

Students from all public and several private schools in Nottoway, Brunswick, Lunenburg, Amelia, and Dinwiddie counties participated this year. One thousand fifteen students participated in 2014 and 1,009 students participated in 2015.

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Inside the ARECS: AREC and College Farm review

In fall 2014, the Agricultural Research and Extension Centers and College Farm of the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station took part in a comprehensive external review. The review team took a tour of four of the 11 off-campus centers and had many interactions with faculty, staff and administration located on the Blacksburg campus.

AREC map

In its final report, the review team noted the strong cooperation among units and between research and Extension, and also the commitment to meeting stakeholder needs. The consensus of the review team was that the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, and specifically the AREC system, is high functioning and organized to capitalize on its strengths in the future and that the stake holders and citizens of Virginia are well served by Virginia Tech’s Agricultural Research and Extension Centers and College Farm. The group did comment that facilities and equipment on the Virginia ARECs, while well-maintained, have some age and are in need of investment and that the ability of the ARECs to respond to emerging issues and meet future needs will depend upon the continued upkeep of both facilities and equipment.

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Inside the ARECS: President Sands tours Eastern Shore AREC

Virginia Tech President Timothy Sands recently visited the Eastern Shore of Virginia, where he met with area farmers and took a tour of the local Agricultural Research and Extension Center.

President Sands tours Eastern Shore AREC

President Tim Sands, center, visits the Eastern Shore AREC.

“The partnership between Virginia Tech and Virginia agriculture has never been stronger, and our commitment to support agriculture throughout the commonwealth is firm,” Sands told a packed house at the Eastern Shore Ag Conference and Trade Show. “It is where we started, and it is still a major part of Virginia Tech.”

Laura Strawn (right), an assistant professor in food science and technology, shares her research with Saied Mostaghimi, associate dean of research (left) and President Sands (center).

Laura Strawn, right, an assistant professor in food science and technology, shares her research with Saied Mostaghimi, associate dean of research, left, and President Sands, center.

Sands pointed out that the National Science Foundation recently ranked the university in sixth place for research spending among agricultural universities in the U.S., a move up from seventh place. He also said that one of the university’s strong suits is putting its research into the hands of people through Virginia Cooperative Extension.

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Inside the ARECs: Reynolds Homestead greenhouse

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 Reynolds Homestead Forest Resources Research Center in Critz, Virginia, was created in 1969 to study forest biology, including genetics, physiology and soils. Specific projects include harvesting to increase forest health and productivity, site preparation, forest fertilization, loblolly pine physiology and forest herbicide testing. Facilities include 780 acres, a 2-acre pond, an historic site and laboratory, office, continuing education and greenhouse space. A new and much needed addition is an 1,800-square-foot greenhouse with more precise climate control and enough space to handle small trees.

The new greenhouse at Reynolds Homestead has superior climate control under both summer and winter conditions.

The new greenhouse at Reynolds Homestead has superior climate control under both summer and winter conditions.

The new greenhouse has already been used to root a set of research plants. Associate Professor Amy Brunner and Assistant Professor Jason Holliday in the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation in the College of Natural Resources and Environment will begin a major study at the greenhouse looking at nutrient use and growth responses to daylight in black cottonwood. They will ultimately identify the gene regulatory networks that control these responses.

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Tommy Hines — November Employee of the Month

Tommy Hines, senior research specialist at the Eastern Shore AREC, has been selected as the November Employee of the Month.

Tommy Hines (on left) receiving award from Steve Rideout

Tommy Hines (on left) receiving award from Steve Rideout

Tommy’s nominator praised his work ethic and expertise, noting that he has “served as a technician in weed science at the Eastern Shore AREC for 41 years.” Most of this time has been spent supporting Henry Wilson’s weed science research and Extension program. Tommy is respected by growers, industry, and former and current graduate students for his knowledge and research abilities.

With Wilson’s recent retirement, Tommy has gone above and beyond to ensure that grower and industry needs are met. He has maintained an Extension and research program in vegetable and field crop weed science to ensure that growers are provided the most up-to-date information. He is also currently helping to mentor a Ph.D. graduate student in the process of completing his degree.

Tommy’s reputation and hard work are evident and well-respected. He has helped ensure that weed science research and Extension continue at the Eastern Shore AREC and that vegetable and field crop growers in the commonwealth are provided necessary information.

Congratulations Tommy!

Photo unavailable at the time of publication.

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Inside the ARECs: Eastern Shore AREC

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.

Ramon Arancibia

Ramon Arancibia

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.

Laura Strawn

Laura Strawn

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.

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