Virginia 4-H horse judging team wins national championship

The Virginia 4-H Horse Judging team won first overall at the Eastern National 4-H Horse Judging Contest in November.

“Winning the national contest means so much to this team. I knew at the beginning of the year they had the talent to do it, and they worked tirelessly every week to make sure they were ready for the challenge of Eastern Nationals,” said Leona Ransdell, the coach of the Horse Judging team.

The Eastern National 4-H Horse Roundup is held annually in Louisville, Kentucky. The event allows 4-H’ers to compete nationally in several contests, including Horse Judging, Hippology, Horse Bowl, and Horse Communications. This year, 306 youth from 26 states competed. For the Virginia 4-H Horse Judging team, this was their biggest and most important contest to date.

Team members Charlotte Manvell, 17, of Fredericksburg, Virginia; Ruth Martin, 16, of Check, Virginia; Sarah Seay, 16, of Louisa, Virginia; and Caitlyn Russ, 17, of Palmyra, Virginia, each placed high individually, demonstrating the skills they’ve worked hard to cultivate through practice and competition. They were scored in three areas: halter class judging, performance class judging, and oral reasons. They placed first in halter, first in performance, and third in reasons, taking home the first overall.

Virginia 4-H had 16 total competitors at the Roundup, all placing well in their competitions. The Horse Bowl team of Taryn Cowles, Emma Hartman, Katie Define, and Hannah Beaver placed ninth overall. In Hippology, the team of Nikki Novak, Adela Novak, Peyton Freeman, and Claire Edwards placed 10th overall. The Virginia Communications team placed ninth, with Caroline Perkins competing in Public Speaking, Kate Hudson competing in Individual Presentation, and Camryn Madagan and Brenna Hathaway competing in Team Presentation.

4-H grows confident young people who are empowered for life today and prepared for the world of tomorrow. The research-backed 4 H experience teaches young people who are four times more likely to contribute to their communities, two times more likely to be civically active, and two times more likely to make healthier choices. 4-H reaches nearly 6 million young people across the country. The 4-H horse program in America has an enrollment of more than 260,000, the largest of all the animal-oriented 4-H projects.

Written by Caroline Sutphin


“Soil Health Champions” Receive Conservation Awards

Extension Specialist Eric Bendfeldt (left) with Kevin Craun and Ryan Blosser

Extension Specialist Eric Bendfeldt (left) with Kevin Craun and Ryan Blosser

Harrisonburg, December 18, 2017 – Bridgewater brothers Kevin and Steve Craun and Augusta County farmer Ryan Blosser recently received the fourth annual Carl G. Luebben Soil Health and Water Quality Awards for their contributions to conservation in the commonwealth.

Sponsored by Houff Corporation, the award is named for Luebben, a former Houff salesman known for his passion for agronomy, sustainable systems, soil health research, 
and mentorship of conservation professionals.

The Craun brothers are fourth-generation dairymen who operate Hillview Farms, Inc., a 435-acre dairy with 150 milking cows, 150 replacement heifers, and 100 head of beef cattle in the southwestern corner of Rockingham County near Bridgewater, Virginia. They are true “soil health champions” who have a well-established cropping system, including alfalfa in the rotation, and take care to closely balance residue management to build organic matter. Other notable Best Management Practices include no-till planting, cover crops, manure storage, and side-dressing nitrogen. Numerous practices have also been installed on pastures to promote herd health, cow comfort, and forage production.

Kevin and Steve sell their beef and milk through local co-ops, which showcase locally grown food from farmers who cherish the land and its sustainability. They have opened their operation to numerous school groups, production tours, and conservation agencies to provide a closer look at these practices. The brothers also serve on various boards; Kevin is a former Shenandoah Valley Soil and Water Conservation District director and board chairman.

Ryan Blosser is the owner-operator of the Dancing Star Farm, where he grows high-quality, chemical-free vegetables with limited tillage. Blosser plants highly diverse crops in permanent rows that are tilled while the rest of the soil remains untouched. The residue remaining on his fields increases organic matter, and crop rotation breaks up pest cycles without chemicals. His soil-health-building practices offer added benefits of increasing water-holding capacity and reducing runoff, leaching, and erosion. Blosser also uses a swale system to filter water, leaving it cleaner than when it entered the farm.

Blosser runs a very successful Community Supported Agriculture program on just 1.25 cultivated acres and focuses on giving back to the agricultural community. He is an executive director for Project Grows, a nonprofit group that hosts summer camps and field trips to teach children about gardening while providing food for the community. He is also involved with the Shenandoah Permaculture Institute, which teaches citizens about this form of intensively planned, environmentally restorative agriculture.

The Crauns and Blosser received their awards at the Virginia Farm to Table Conference, hosted by Virginia Cooperative Extension and USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service at Blue Ridge Community College on Dec. 6, 2018. Carl’s son Dan was on hand to participate in the presentations. Carl Luebben, who died in October 2015, previously served on the Rockingham County Virginia Farm Bureau Board and the Shenandoah Valley Soil and Water Conservation District.

Eric Bendfeldt
540-432-6029, ext. 106


Stop Diabetes Now – Know Your Risk

Being proactive with your health is easier than ever and starts with knowing your health risks. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that 84 million American adults (1 in 3 adults) have prediabetes, but that 90 percent of them don’t know that they have it.

Prediabetes is a condition in which a person’s blood sugar is high, but not high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes. It is an important sign that a person is at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, and is a risk factor for heart attack and stroke. The good news is that there are easy screening tests to tell if you have prediabetes, and the condition can often be reversed through simple changes in lifestyle.

Who is at risk for prediabetes? In general, people who are overweight or obese (check out your weight status on the chart below) and aren’t regularly physically active. People who have a parent, brother, or sister with type 2 diabetes are also at higher risk, as are men and people over 40 years old. In addition, women with a history of gestational diabetes are at greater risk for having prediabetes.


You can find out if you are at risk for prediabetes by taking a simple online risk test at If after taking the test, you find that you are at increased risk, make an appointment to see your doctor, who will do a blood test to check your blood sugar. Diagnosis is the key. Once you know where you stand, you can take steps to reduce your risk.

The sooner people with prediabetes make healthy changes, the better their chance of reversing prediabetes. Now there is a proven program to help people do just that.

The National Diabetes Prevention Program helps people with prediabetes prevent or delay developing type 2 diabetes. A lifestyle coach works with participants over an extended period and uses tested methods to help them learn to manage their weight, establish a regular routine of physical activity, and develop a healthy eating pattern. A program will be offered on the Virginia Tech campus in spring 2018.

If you think you are at risk, take the following steps:

  1. Take the online screening test;
  2. If at risk, make an appointment with your doctor; and
  3. Inquire about the National Diabetes Prevention Program being offered in the spring.


Lynn Margheim

Carlin Rafie


Catch up with the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in the latest edition of Innovations

The latest edition of Innovations features stories on the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences‘ (CALS) top students, faculty, researchers, and alumni.

For CALS students, research opportunities don’t have to wait until graduate school. Thanks to financial awards such as Pratt Scholarships, undergraduates can start working on projects early in their academic careers and during the summer months.

Virginia Tech alumna Hannah Parker

Hannah Parker (human nutrition, foods, and exercise ’17; animal and poultry sciences ’17)

A group of CALS students spent two weeks in Ecuador trekking in the Amazon, scaling the Andes, and exploring the Galapagos to understand food security and production on a global scale and, more importantly, to use agriculture as a means to help the world.

Joe Parr, a 1983 horticulture graduate, is director of horticulture for SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment’s Busch Gardens Tampa and Adventure Island, where he creates enormous topiaries in the shape of lions, snakes, butterflies, dolphins, and even Oscar the Grouch.

Read these stories and more online at


Sign the Healthy Meetings Pledge

Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) is on the front lines of helping our communities be the healthiest they can be. Having a healthy eating pattern and being active is key to good mental and physical health and quality of life. Protecting the skin from sun damage when working and playing outdoors at all ages significantly reduces the risk of skin cancer.

As community health educators and representatives of VCE, we have the opportunity to set the example and to model a commitment to a healthy lifestyle. The Healthy Meetings Initiative invites you to join your colleagues in developing a culture of health within VCE and among the clients that we serve.

By signing the Healthy Meetings Pledge, you are agreeing to:

  1. Make your programs and meetings an example of healthy living;
  2. Document your healthy meetings on the Healthy Meetings Checklist (see VCE Publications);
  3. Share your successes with pictures on the VCE Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages, when possible;
  4. Use hashtage #VCEHealthyMeeting to spread the word;
  5. Let us know what you did by answering the end-of-the-year survey that will be distributed to all individuals and units that sign the pledge during the year.

Sign the pledge here, and join your VCE colleagues in creating communities of health!