Category Archives: Extension Updates

Virginia 4-H member wins national 4-H lawn mower operator safety contest

Tyler Burgess of Franklin, Virginia, won the 2016 National Youth Lawn Tractor Challenge.

This event is designed to give youth participating in the lawn tractor-focused educational programs and opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in the areas of lawn care, business management, and lawn and garden tractor operation, maintenance and safety, while competing with other youth. Tyler had to complete a written exam, identify parts, and demonstrate safe operation of a lawn tractor through an obstacle course to finish the contest on top.

The event is part of the the National 4-H Engineering Challenge. It is the premier contest within the National 4-H program that allows talented youth from around the country to assemble together to showcase their knowledge and skills in a variety of individual and team-based engineering contests and activities. While this event has become increasingly focused on engineering, traditional events, such as lawn tractor operation, have been retained and continue to play a big part in the challenge.

The Engineering Challenge was hosted by Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. In addition to the competitive events and challenges, in keeping with the engineering theme, tours of the Caterpillar and Subaru manufacturing plants were provided so that the participants were able to see in practice various engineering principles as they relate to design, manufacturing, or other types of production of goods and services. The group also visited the Mechanical and Agricultural engineering programs on the campus of Purdue University.

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eFARS changes

  • Faculty will use the new university eFARS system to complete their 2016 annual report.
  • CALS Unit Leaders (department heads and others) will use the old CALS eFARS system to post faculty evaluations since the university eFARS system is not yet set up to do that function.
  • CALS eFARS is only open to faculty for the purpose of 1) accessing archived reports and 2) communicating performance evaluation info from unit leaders to faculty once your 2016 report has been submitted and reviewed.
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Virginia Cooperative Extension offers tips for Emergency Preparedness Month

Virginia Cooperative Extension helped to build a more resilient response to disaster around the commonwealth by taking part in National Preparedness Month in September.

The goal of the initiative was to increase the number of individuals who understand which disasters could happen in their community, know what to do to be safe and mitigate damage, take action to increase their preparedness, and participate in community resilience planning.

The theme for 2016 was “Don’t Wait. Communicate. Make Your Emergency Plan Today.”

“Disasters can strike anyone, anywhere, and sometimes without notice. Regardless of the type of disaster, it is wise for you and your family to be prepared,” said Michael Martin, Virginia Cooperative Extension emergency response and preparedness coordinator.

Families can prepare for natural disasters, such as tornadoes, hurricanes, and weather-related power outages, by assembling an emergency kit to keep in their home, car, and on their person; developing a communication plan; and paying attention to local weather conditions and emergency alerts.

One of the first things that you can do is assemble several emergency kits: one for the home, one to leave in a primary mode of transportation, and one that is portable in case it is necessary to abandon your home quickly. An emergency kit should contain enough items to supply food and water for your family for at least three days. Examples of some items your home kit may contain include:

  • one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days;
  • nonperishable food for at least three days;
  • a battery-powered or crank weather radio with extra batteries;
  • a flashlight and extra batteries;
  • a first-aid kit;
  • prescription medications;
  • nonelectric can opener;
  • personal care products; and
  • food and water for pets.

In addition to an emergency kit, Martin encourages every family to have a communication plan with phone numbers of individuals to contact in case of emergencies.

“Since it is possible that family members may get separated during a disaster and may not be able to get in touch with each other, you should identify a person in another locality or even in another state whom each person would contact,” said Martin. “You can also identify a common meeting place in your community should you not be able to access your home. A written plan should be given to each family member to keep with them at all times.”

In an emergency, you may have to leave your home quickly. If evacuation is necessary, listen to the radio for more information and follow the guidance of emergency personnel. Also, make sure that all family members are familiar with:

  • the best exits out of your home;
  • a community meeting place;
  • a local radio station;
  • the location of an emergency kit;
  • plans for care of pets and livestock; and
  • plans for movement of family members with special needs, such as the elderly or disabled.

Martin also suggests that families keep cars at least half-full of fuel because in an emergency fuel may not be available.

For more information on making plans for disaster preparedness, visit the Virginia Department of Emergency Management’s Ready Virginia website or the Virginia Cooperative Extension storm and emergency preparedness website.

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Small grains board approves funding for 23 projects across the commonwealth

The Virginia Small Grains Board recently met and approved $374,012 in funding for a total of 23 projects from across the commonwealth that are aimed at improving the production, science, marketing, and public opinion of Virginia small grains. Projects such as these drive the innovation necessary to ensure America continues to have the most reliable and affordable food supply in the world.

Below is a list of the projects the Small Grains Board approved for Virginia Tech for FY 2016-17. At the end of this fiscal year, the funding recipients will provide the results and findings of their projects to the Small Grains Board for their review.

  • Herbicide Sensitivity, Herbicide Resistant Mouse-Ear Cress and Intercropping Wheat with Forage Radish – Michel Flessner
  • Residual Herbicides for Season-Long Management of Italian Ryegrass – Charlie Cahoon
  • Small Grains Research Program Support – Bob Pitman
  • Improving Efficiency of Cultivar Development Through Aerial Remote Selection – Maria Balota
  • Integrated Management of Scab & Foliar Diseases of Wheat – Hillary Mehl
  • Accelerated Breeding for Scab Resistance in Soft Red Winter Wheat – C.A. Griffey
  • Improvement and Development of Barley for Use in Feed, Malt & Fuel – C.A. Griffey
  • Development of Specialty Wheat Varieties with High Value End-Use Properties – C.A. Griffey
  • Characterization and Mapping Native Scab Resistance in Virginia Tech Barley Varieties – C.A. Griffey
  • Marker Assisted Breeding to Enhance Cultivar Development in Small Grains – C.A. Griffey
  • Identification of Diagnostic DNA Markers for Genes Governing Quality Trains in Soft Red Winter Wheat to Aid in Breeding Cultivars Having Improved End-Use Quality – C.A. Griffey
  • Determination of Earlier Planting Date and Potential Cultuvars for Fall Planted Winter Wheat to Optimize the Soybean/Winter Wheat Double Crop Rotation for Increased Yields in Virginia – C.A. Griffey
  • Breeding Wheat for Improved Nitrogen Use Efficiency – C.A. Griffey
  • Development of Doubled Haploid Wheat Lines to Accelerate Cultivar Development – C.A. Griffey
  • FY2016 Mycotoxin Testing Services for Virginia Wheat & Barley- David Schmale
  • Detoxification of Mycotoxin in Virginia Wheat & Barley – David Schmale
  • Virginia FFA Foundation – Brian Walsh
  • Improving Nitrogen Use Efficiency in Wheat: Time-Course Observation of Flag Leaf Physiology – Takeshi Fukao
  • Small Grains Extension Program, Variety Testing and Market Development – Wade Thomason

The Virginia Small Grains Board manages and approves the allocation of small grain check-off funds to eligible programs throughout the state & nation on an annual basis. The funds the Board allocates are provided through a checkoff of one-half of one percent of the net selling price per bushel, collected by the buyer at the first point of sale and then remitted on a quarterly basis to the Virginia Department of Taxation. The check-off assessment is collected only on small grains that are sold by the producer.


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Inside the ARECs: Nemo found at Virginia Seafood AREC

IMG_1218[1]_resizedWhen the sequel to the popular “Finding Nemo” movie came out this summer, conservation biologists were worried that the same thing that happened to wild fish populations would happen all over again – demand for the clown fish species to adorn fish tanks would go up. That demand would lead to more pressures on fragile reef ecosystems where ornamental fish are taken from their natural habitat.

But this time around, the fish had the Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research Center on their side. There, clown fish are being bred in an aquaculture environment, which helps keep native fish in their natural habitat while creating an economic boon for the aquaculture industry.

“One of the reasons this project is going so well is that is good for both the environment and for local seafood producers,” said Mike Schwarz, a Virginia Cooperative Extension aquaculture research specialist. “The demand is rapidly increasing for ornamental fish but we have to meet this demand in a sustainable way.”

Schwarz and other researchers at the VSAREC have been working with a number of aquaculture sector stakeholders from Virginia clear across to California to help them figure out the best ways to raise ornamental fish and their babies. Complicated, as the young of most marine ornamental fish, including “nemo’s” require live feeds in the early stages of life, a complicated process.

“At the AREC, we are developing a wealth of knowledge that producers can use to capitalize on this trend in ornamental fish,” he said.

Beyond the cute clown fish, VSAREC faculty and staff are trying to predict the next big demand for ornamental fish. Beside the tanks filled with clownfish are ones filled with other blue, green and purple fish, as well as seahorses bobbing up and down happily.

Who knows, maybe the next blockbuster will be Seabiscuit the Seahorse? If it is, Schwarz will be ready.

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In memoriam: Daniel Powers, assistant farm manager, Virginia Tech Southern Piedmont Agricultural Research and Extension Center

Daniel “Danny” Powers, who worked at the Virginia Tech Southern Piedmont Agricultural Research and Extension Center for 38 years, died on Aug. 16.

Powers was the assistant farm manager at the Blackstone, Virginia, facility, where he was remembered as both a mentor and a kind and joyous friend.

“Danny was a part of our family,” said Carol Wilkinson, director of the AREC. “He was an instrumental part of the successes we had here over the years and he was a constant source of compassion to everyone who had the pleasure of knowing him. He will be deeply missed.”

An avid golfer and member of the Nottoway River Country Club, an obituary about Powers said he “went to the 19th hole in Heaven.” He was also remembered as someone who was steadfastly loyal to his family and friends.

He is survived by his wife, Sharon Barlow Powers and their three sons, Jason (Stephanie), Patrick (Amanda), and Nicholas; four grandchildren, Hailey, Kolby, Jordan, and Tanner; and a much-anticipated granddaughter, Kathryn. Powers is also survived by his mother, Jane Edmunds Powers; his brothers, Chuck and Dick Powers (Jane); his mother-in-law, Hilda Barlow; a host of nieces and nephews; and many friends who loved him dearly.

Donations in Powers’ memory can be made to the Wounded Warrior Project, P.O. Box 758512, Topeka, Kansas, 66675.

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VALOR program graduates twelve new agricultural leaders

Virginia Agriculture Leaders Obtaining Results, the state’s premier agricultural leadership training program, celebrated the graduation of its second class of leadership fellows at the Hotel Roanoke on July 16.

The three-day event was marked by graduating fellows completing a service project with hunger relief organization Feeding America and culminated with an evening reception and dinner ceremony at the historic hotel. The ceremony closed with an alumni breakfast to matriculate graduating fellows into their new roles as agricultural leaders in their  respective communities.

VALOR is one program of about 40 active agricultural leadership programs in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Australia that promotes culturally appropriate agricultural leadership training that uses a research-based experiential learning approach to build professional leadership skills. The program is housed in Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in the Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education.

Graduating fellows include:

  • Marilyn Adams, a Farm Credit branch manager from Purcellville, Virginia;
  • Lauren Arbogast, a digital learning designer and poultry producer from Harrisonburg, Virginia;
  • Shelley Barlow, a cotton and row crop farmer from Chuckatuck, Virginia;
  • Timothy Durham, Ferrum College assistant professor of agronomy from Callaway, Virginia;
  • Basil Gooden, state director of Rural Development (USDA) and Virginia’s incoming secretary of agriculture and forestry from Buckingham, Virginia;
  • M. James Faison, President, Milton’s Local from Hopewell, Virginia;
  • Jennifer Leech, a dairy herdsperson from Lexington, Virginia;
  • Albert Reid, a Virginia State University 4-H specialist from Ettrick, Virginia;
  • Adam Shiflett, Farm Credit lending team leader from Staunton, Virginia;
  • Josh Stephens, a petroleum sales manager from Quicksburg, Virginia;
  • Joe Wilkerson, landscaping business owner from South Boston, Virginia; and
  • Cliff Williamson, regulatory affairs with the American Horse Council from Culpeper, Virginia.

“This class brought a new level of diverse backgrounds and ideas to VALOR,” said Director Megan Seibel.  “As a collective voice, representing individual strengths and interests, they join the alumni in gaining recognition for the profound potential of our program and its fellows.”

This year’s graduates come from myriad fields of the agriculture industry and run the gamut from policymakers to producers, including row-crop and dairy farmers, bankers, agricultural lenders, government officials, and local food purveyors. The youngest graduate manages her family’s 300-head Shenandoah Valley dairy herd and another raises cotton and soybeans near Suffolk.

On a farmer-friendly schedule, these fellows have met every other month for two years to train, network, and travel throughout Virginia’s nine distinct agricultural regions.

As they travel, the fellows are hosted by agricultural leaders who illustrate regional realities, challenges, and innovations on their family farms, dairies, vineyards, orchards, urban greenhouses, soybean fields, fishing boats, and forests.

Course-based learning and hands-on experience throughout the state prepare fellows to lead their own communities in civic discourse and decision-making, guiding and engaging others in community action and problem-solving.

In addition to boots-on-the-ground agriculture production, agricultural policy and communication are part of the training when fellows visit the state and nation’s capitals. An international experience crowns each VALOR program by couching Virginia agriculture in the context of world trade, cooperation, and global connectivity. This spring the class visited Vietnam to gain a global perspective on agriculture.

Agriculture is Virginia’s largest industry, employing 400,000 farmers and workers and generating approximately $70 billion annually. Agriculture  supports biological and cultural diversity, while protecting water and soil quality.

“VALOR prepares people to engage in community discourse,” said Josh Stephens, graduating fellow and family farmer who raises beef and goats in Quicksburg, Virginia. “Keeping agriculture a viable industry in our county is beneficial, and all forms of agriculture need to be embraced.”

Support for VALOR comes from the Farm Credit of the Virginias and the Virginia Farm Bureau, small businesses, foundations, and generous individuals.

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Tyler Wegmeyer named 2016 Virginia Farmer of the Year

Virginia Cooperative Extension has recognized Tyler Wegmeyer of Wegmeyer Farms in Loudoun County, Virginia, as the 2016 Virginia Farmer of the Year. He joins nine other state winners as finalists for the overall award, which will be announced on Oct. 18 at the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Ag Expo farm show in Moultrie, Georgia.

Wegmeyer operates a diversified 250-acre fruit and vegetable farm. The farm consists of three u-pick strawberry locations, four u-pick pumpkin locations, a vegetable CSA, and a large separate agritourism farm. In addition to direct consumer sales, he also sells wholesale to grocery store chains and nursery retailers along the East Coast.

His agriculture leadership roles  include serving on the boards of the Virginia Strawberry Association, Southern States Cooperative, Loudoun County Heritage Farm Museum, and as the past president of the Loudoun County Farm Bureau.

“We are so pleased that farming operations like Wegmeyer Farms call Virginia home,” said Bobby Grisso, associate director of agriculture and natural resources for Virginia Cooperative Extension. “Tyler Wegmeyer has a unique perspective he can draw from his experience as both a policymaker and a farmer.”

Wegmeyer traded in his urban office for strawberry fields in 2013 when he decided to farm full time. Previously, Wegmeyer farmed part time and had a 15-year career in agricultural policy in Washington, D.C., where he served most recently as director of congressional relations at the American Farm Bureau Federation. In addition, he was a strategic marketing project manager at John Deere, staff director for the House Committee Agriculture’s Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management, and a member of the staff of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.

“Our mission with all our farm locations is to engage with people and offer a memorable family experience that will educate and create a positive awareness of  agriculture,” said Wegmeyer. “Good agriculture policy starts with consumers understanding a little bit about what it takes to grow food.  We have a passion for agriculture, and for us, it’s much more than just producing a high-yielding crop.  We aim to make a difference in the public’s perception of how food is grown.”

Wegmeyer utilizes the latest technology and conservation practices in all aspects of his business to protect the environment directly and indirectly. Tablets and smartphones take payment, track inventory, map fields, market their produce, and act as a  portable office. Strawberry and other water sensitive vegetable crops are drip irrigated and the pumpkin wholesale fields, along with corn and soybeans, are no-tilled into cover crops using a roller-crimper.

He also uses the latest nozzle technology to enable crop-protection products to work the best they can. Besides yearly soil sampling, weekly plant tissue samplings are pulled to achieve optimal nutrient management. Most of the technology Wegmeyer uses is transparent and visible to the public, especially in u-pick fields. This visibility creates opportunity for dialogue with customers.

Since its inception in 1990, the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year Award has evolved into the most-prestigious honor in the Southeast and nation with 225 agribusiness leaders being honored for their “excellence in agriculture.”

Ten states participate in the program: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. In the previous 26 years of the award, more than $1,044,000 has been awarded to state and overall winners.

Each state winner receives $2,500 and an all-expense-paid trip to Expo along with various other prizes. The overall Southeastern winner receives $15,000 and other prizes from the sponsors.

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Calling all award winners

The Office of Communications and Marketing will again this year produce a brochure acknowledging the awards and recognitions received by the employees of the college and Virginia Cooperative Extension. The brochure will be distributed at the Annual Faculty and Staff Picnic on August 10, 2016.

Representatives for each department and district will soon receive an email with specifics and a deadline for submission, but now would be a great time for staff and faculty members to start gathering the information we need.

Please list only those awards received during the period of July 1, 2015 – June 30, 2016.

We need the following info about each award:

  1. Full name of the employee. If it is a team award, include the names of all team members.
  2. Employee’s department (CALS) or district (VCE).
  3. Complete name of award. If applicable, include whether it is a district, state, regional, national, or international award.
  4. If it is a calendar year award, is the award for 2015 or 2016?
  5. Full name of awarding organization or agency.
  6. The date the award was received (not when it was announced).

If you have any questions, feel free to contact Bobbi Hoffman.

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Save the date: 2016 Patrick County Beef Conference with Temple Grandin

Make sure to mark your calendars for July 28 – you don’t want to miss this!

The 2016 Patrick County Beef Conference is coming up later this summer in Patrick Springs, Virginia, and registration is open.

This year’s speakers include:

  • Temple Grandin, animal science professor and internationally known livestock handling expert;
  • Robert Gentry, doctor of veterinary medicine at Multimin USA;
  • Mary Tomlinson, doctor of veterinary medicine at Healing Springs Large Animal Clinic; and
  • Jason Carter, executive secretary for the Virginia Cattleman’s Association

Event registration is open online. If you have additional questions, contact Travis Bunn.

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