Tyler Wegmeyer named Virginia’s Farmer of the Year

photo of Tyler Wegmeyer kneeling in strawberry field.

Tyler Wegmeyer

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 Swisher Sweets / Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year Award which will be announced on Oct. 18 at the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Ag Expo farm show in Moultrie, Georgia.

Wegmeyer currently 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.”

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Virginia Cooperative Extension offers tips for controlling mosquitoes

Mosquitoes commonly occur throughout all parts of Virginia. They are not only annoyances but also potential carriers of disease, including the Zika virus.

Mosquitoes commonly occur throughout all parts of Virginia. They are not only annoyances but also potential carriers of disease, including the Zika virus.

While the commonwealth boasts an abundance of outdoor activities to enjoy, Virginia summers have their drawbacks, too. Whether you’re hiking the Blue Ridge Mountains or hosting a backyard barbecue, chances are you’ll find yourself swatting at pesky mosquitoes.

Mosquitoes commonly occur throughout all parts of Virginia. They are not only annoyances but also potential carriers of disease, including the Zika virus. Virginia Cooperative Extension reminds residents that understanding basic mosquito habits and taking steps to disrupt their lifecycles can reduce the threat significantly.

The key to controlling mosquitoes is removing the standing or stagnant water where they thrive and reproduce, according to Eric Day, manager of the Virginia Tech Insect Identification Lab.

“The big pest mosquitoes in Virginia are container breeders, so in natural situations their larvae are developing in tree holes, which are holes in trees that collect water,” Day says. “In yards and around businesses, they are going to be breeding in locations such as stopped-up gutters, birdbaths, old containers, tires, or any structure that collects and holds water.”

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Soybeans come out on top

Soybeans are an important staple of Virginia agricultural exports and are among the top five crops exported to markets overseas. In the last agricultural census, soybeans were also the top revenue-generating crop with more than $300 million in sales.

The lucrative Virginia crop is sought out as far away as Japan, where fermented soybeans are eaten as a breakfast item called natto.

Hillary Mehl, assistant professor of plant pathology, physiology, and weed science, is working to keep Virginia a sustainable, soybean-producing powerhouse.

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4-H promotes healthy and nutritious eating in Chesapeake

two African-American young ladies cookingExposure to fruits and vegetables was all it took for one student at a recent 4-H Healthy Lifestyles and Food and Nutrition program to make her diet healthier.

“One student went home and requested that her mom purchase some of the things we tasted in class,” said Jocelyn Pearson, 4-H youth development Virginia Cooperative Extension agent for the City of Chesapeake. “Often we find that if we can expose kids to new fruits and vegetables they end up liking them and wanting to learn more about nutrition and how to live healthier.”

The students tasted a wide array of fruits and vegetables during the programming including Asian pears, Fuji apples, sweet potatoes, broccoli, bok choy, red potatoes, collard greens, rutabaga, tangerines, green beans, winter squash and spaghetti squash.

Virginia 4-H addresses the state’s childhood obesity problem by exposing kids to good exercise and eating habits. In Chesapeake second graders at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School participated in a bi-monthly program that introduced them to one fruit and one vegetable per session, which they then learned how to prepare, as well as the food’s nutrients and health benefits.

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Extension helping to put an end to urban food deserts

photo of community garden

Community gardens such as this one are helping Richmond City residents combat the challenges posed by food deserts.

The young woman named Special from Richmond City had no idea she was in an urban food desert when she walked in to a Virginia Cooperative Extension symposium set up to tackle the problem.

Special’s father had recently died from a heart attack and she was looking for ways that her family could start eating healthy, so she attended the event at Fifth Street Baptist Church that featured a number of tips on eating well. Special not only learned that she was one of the thousands of Richmond residents living in a food desert, she also learned how she can work with VCE to combat the issue.

“Today’s event has really inspired me to get involved to work with VCE and others to address this concern,” she told her local Extension agent.

There are more than 25 food deserts in Richmond, where people do not have easy access to fresh and nutritious food within 1.5 miles of their homes. Though grocery stores or farmers markets may be accessible by car, many people do not have a means to get to one, so they are dependent upon their corner store, which often carries fast or junk food.

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