Tag Archives: AREC

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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Inside the ARECs: Hampton Roads AREC hosts Farm to Fork event

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.

On Sept. 21, the Hampton Roads Agricultural Research and Extension Center partnered with Buy Fresh Buy Local Hampton Roads to host the fourth annual “Farm to Fork” local food celebration.

Hampton Roads AREC event

Buy Fresh Buy Local is a grassroots organization dedicated to connecting consumers to locally grown foods and products.

Fourteen of the area’s best chefs each worked with a local producer to create tasting dishes using fresh, seasonal ingredients from the farms and waters of Hampton Roads. Some of the highlights were Terrapin Restaurant’s black pepper cantaloupe sorbet, made with Mattawoman Creek Farm melons, and pulled pork supplied by Rainbow’s End Farm and prepared by Country Boys BBQ.

“ ‘Farm to Fork’ is a terrific way for the Hampton Roads AREC to support local farmers and watermen and to additionally expose a non-agriculture audience to agricultural research and Virginia Tech and Virginia Cooperative Extension programs,” says Peter Schultz, director of the Hampton Roads AREC.

In addition to experiencing the gastronomic bounty of the area, there was a live animal exhibit by Gum Tree Farms, and musical stylings by a local band.

“This is a wonderful and exciting event that brings together a community of people to experience and celebrate the wonderful local food found in Hampton Roads,” said Buy Fresh Buy Local Director Kirsten Halverson.

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Virginia Tech receives award for quantifying soil health research

Researchers at Virginia Tech recently received a USDA grant for “Quantifying Soil Health: Measuring the Impacts of Tillage and Cover Crop Practices on Nutrient Retention and Soil Physical, Biological and Chemical Properties.”

Modern agricultural practices, such as monoculture cropping systems and mechanized tillage, have resulted in widespread soil degradation, erosion and biodiversity loss. The resultant degraded, “unhealthy” soils require increased inputs such as fertilizers and irrigation in order to maintain productivity.

In recent years, however, proactive agricultural producers, extension agents and agencies have worked together to develop management methods such as cover cropping and conservation tillage that restore, maintain or improve the health of agricultural soils, thus reducing production inputs and improving soil properties.

The overall objective is to increase the acreage of land that is being managed with conservation tillage including no-till and multi-species high-residue cover crops, by demonstrating and quantifying the physical, chemical and biological properties of soils managed under conventional tillage, conservation tillage and conservation tillage with high-residue multispecies cover crops.

This project will incorporate several innovative strategies to increase the awareness and practice of soil health management tactics, building on a legacy of interrelated investigation, outreach and extension.

Ryan Stewart from the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences will serve as the PI on the grant. Mark Reiter from the Eastern Shore AREC, Wade Thomason from the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences, Michael Strickland from the Department of Biological Sciences, and David Reed from the Southern Piedmont AREC are the Co-PIs. Congratulations!

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