Trout in the classroom

4-H Extension Agent Beth Hawse works with students in an activity where they learn the anatomy of trout.

4-H Extension Agent Beth Hawse works with students in an activity where learn the anatomy of trout.

By Emily Halstead, Virginia Cooperative Extension Communications and Marketing Intern

Fish are playing an active role in helping sixth-graders in several Virginia schools learn more about the natural environment.

The Trout in the Classroom program, created by 4-H Extension Agent Beth Hawse, allowed students to raise trout and monitor their growth as well as to experience the release of the fish at the end of the yearlong curriculum.

“I offered presentations on trout of Virginia, the trout life cycle, external and internal trout anatomy, trout dissection, and trout adaptions,” Hawse said. “The unit culminated with a field experience to release the trout. The students had a blast.”

According to Hawse, the project provided students with a meaningful watershed educational opportunity, ensuring that their experience releasing the trout offered more awareness of the importance of environmental education.

“Freeman Tilden wrote a book called ‘Interpreting Our Heritage,’ where he stresses the importance of the idea that ‘through interpretation, understanding; through understating, appreciation; through appreciation, protection,’” Hawse said. “His point was if people don’t understand why they should care about resources — cultural, historical, natural —- they won’t care. If we can help lead them to care about resources, if we can relate those resources to something important to the individual, they’ll learn to care.”

The Trout in the Classroom curriculum was originally offered to 67 students from Rockbridge Middle School, but as a result of the program’s success, several other local schools have asked to implement the project. Hawse is now offering the program in Bedford County where she recently transferred.

“The success has been two-fold. When I started in Rockbridge County, it had been years since 4-H had outreach in schools. I focused on getting back into schools and making partnerships,” Hawse said. “When I transferred to Bedford County, Rockbridge had scheduled every sixth-grade student in the county to participate in the program. I think for me, there’s also success in the impact that environmental education has on the students.”

The Virginia 4-H Foundation and the Virginia Resource Use Education Council are funding the program in Bedford County. Hawse said she hopes to use the grants to provide Bedford with a trout tank.




Student researcher studies the core of cider production

BLACKSBURG, Va., Nov. 20, 2014 – It’s been said that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. But one Virginia Tech student researcher is interested in a different phenomenon: howmany apples fall from the tree, and how does this affect cider quality?

Meg McGuire of Dublin, Virginia, a senior majoring in food science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is interested in how the crop yield of apple trees affects the apple quality and ultimately, cider quality.

Over the past 10 years, entrepreneurial cider-making has enjoyed a boom in Virginia with more than 10 licensed commercial cideries in operation. This industry is expected to continue to boost Virginia’s economy for a long time to come.

Wine production is also popular in the region, but McGuire believes that cider making could equal or even bypass that industry, noting that in many areas of the state, climate and soil are much more conducive to apple growing than grape growing.

McGuire works with two College of Agriculture and Life Sciences faculty, Amanda Stewart, an assistant professor of food science and technology and Fralin Life Science Institute affiliate, and Greg Peck, an assistant professor of horticulture, to better understand the optimal orchard management practices for hard cider production.


Fourth-graders work on Standards of Learning while learning about agriculture and natural resources

Sarah Burkett, a family and consumer sciences agent from Pulaski County, teaches students about the importance of nutrition and making healthy food choices.

Sarah Burkett, a family and consumer sciences agent from Pulaski County, teaches students about the importance of nutrition and making healthy food choices.

By: Emily Halstead, VCE Communications and Marketing Intern

More than 1,000 fourth-graders attended the 4-H Junior Hokie Showcase at Virginia Tech’s Alphin-Stuart Livestock Teaching Arena on October 13-17. The weeklong event welcomed students from Montgomery, Floyd, Giles, and Pulaski counties and offered attendees a variety of hands-on activities to supplement their knowledge of Virginia’s agriculture and natural resources.

The annual event teaches students about the importance of agriculture, enhances their agricultural literacy, and uses agriculture as a medium to teach the Standards of Learning for Virginia public schools.

“Teachers want enhancement for the Virginia Standards of Learning, and the showcase supplements some of the lessons the teachers provide in a way that’s more hands-on,” said Michelle Dickerson, 4-H Extension agent in Montgomery County. “A lot of kids don’t know where their food comes from and they don’t understand acorns come from an oak tree. The goal of this week is really just to give some awareness of their Virginia agriculture and natural resources.”

Each day, 200 students cycled through 10 stations where instructors began with a short lesson about the topic and then allowed students to ask questions and engage directly with the materials provided. Starting with a lesson on food and nutrition, students then rotated their way through stations focusing on dairy science, Virginia’s geography, fun and games, horticulture, poultry, recycling, wildlife, animal science, and lastly, forestry.

2014 Virginia Farm to Table Conference will focus on nutrition, health, and sustainability

Fresh produce at a local farmers market.

Fresh produce at a local farmers market.

Nutrition, Health, and Sustainability From the Ground Up is the theme for the 2014 Virginia Farm to Table conference being held Dec. 2 through 4, 2014.

The conference, hosted by Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Soil Health Coalition, and the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service, will be held Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 2 and 3, at Blue Ridge Community College in Weyers Cave, Virginia.

Day 3 will take place Thursday, Dec. 4, at Virginia State University in Petersburg, Virginia.

Those who are interested in boosting local economies, promoting soil health and human nutrition, working to grow and develop community enterprises, and supporting local agriculture and conservation of natural resources are encouraged to attend.

The conference will offer many opportunities for discussion, learning, and networking.



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.


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.