Inside the ARECs: Southern Piedmont AREC celebrates Family and Farm Day 2013

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.

Family and Farm Day was held at the Southern Piedmont Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Blackstone, Va., on Sept. 14, 2013.

Visitors to the event participated in a wide array of activities. An appearance by the PET dairy cow was a highlight of the event for children, while adults were able to have Extension agents test canner pressure gauges and view a canning demonstration. The event included 70 exhibitors and attracted over 900 participants from the local community. Traditional farm animals like chicks, cattle, sheep, pigs, and goats were on view, as well as information about the importance of bees in agriculture, and a worm farm that demonstrated how they enrich soil. Kids had the opportunity to make pinecone bird feeders using peanut butter and bird seed, and families tested their navigation skills by making their way through a corn maze.

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Family and Farm Day is an opportunity to engage the local community and involve members of the community in Virginia’s oldest industry: agriculture. The event is held each year in mid-September and is part of the Southern Piedmont AREC’s mission to educate members of the community about agricultural endeavors in the region.

The Southern Piedmont AREC has five resident faculty, 15 full-time staff, and employs additional hourly people at various times of the year. The resident faculty members conduct research and Extension programs on tobacco, forages, and beef cattle, and they cooperate with other faculty (from Virginia Tech and other institutions) to study alternative crops for Southside Virginia. Crops grown at the center include tobacco, Bermudagrass, crabgrass, annual ryegrass, corn, wheat, barley, soybeans, strawberries, and wine grapes. Faculty expertise includes agronomy, plant pathology, and animal science.  Research and Extension projects also focus on beef cattle management and production including pasture management and rotational grazing.

The need for agricultural research in the Southern Piedmont region of Virginia was first recognized in 1906 when an appropriation of $2,500 was made from the General Fund to finance research at the region’s first off-campus field stations, one at Appomattox and the other at Chatham. The necessity of field stations operated as a complement to the work on the main campus in Blacksburg was recognized more than 90 years ago. Agricultural Research and Extension Centers throughout the state Extension field offices continue to remain significant sources of knowledge for local farming communities.

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