Brandon Monk named Virginia FFA executive director

Brandon Monk

Brandon H. Monk

Brandon H. Monk has been named executive director of Virginia FFA.

The high school agricultural educator, who hails from Frederick County, Virginia, enters his new role as executive director with experience in Virginia FFA program development and working with the National FFA organization as a conference facilitator.

“FFA is primed for growth in Virginia,” Monk said. “Now, more than ever, our industry leaders, government officials, and secondary education administrators are looking for hands-on opportunities to engage students in practical skills that translate into career success. FFA and agricultural education programs have been providing that platform for years. I am looking forward to doing our part as an association to share the story of youth in agriculture as we grow leaders.”

The National FFA Organization is committed to the individual student and provides a path to achievement in premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education.

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International policy starts in Blacksburg

Jason Grant, director of the Center for Agricultural Trade

The new Center for Agricultural Trade at Virginia Tech is paying big dividends for the commonwealth and the nation.

Recently the center found itself in the midst of the highly contested international trade relations negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The topic? The heavily protected global dairy market.

The center relentlessly produced up-to-the-minute export models during the negotiations, which were under discussion until the eleventh hour. The models provided clear-cut export scenarios that put the realities of trade tariffs into sharper focus. The International Trade Commission and the Office of the Chief Economist — a political body that reports directly to the president of the United States — used the models.

Part think tank, part classroom, and part idea incubator, the center’s mission is to become the leader in creation and dissemination of information on agricultural policy for legislators, educators, and industry leaders.

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Avoid spreading boxwood disease when decorating for the holidays

Dr. Hong inspecting a boxwood bush.

Chuanxue Hong, Extension specialist in ornamental horticulture, reminds people to be cautious when decorating with boxwoods this holiday season so they don’t spread the boxwood blight.

Virginia Cooperative Extension is cautioning the public to take measures to avoid spreading the devastating boxwood blight when decorating for the holidays this year.

Clippings in wreaths and garlands have the capacity to spread the disease, which could decimate English and American boxwood populations along the East Coast.

Researchers say that boxwood blight could threaten the plants in the same way that the chestnut blight destroyed trees in the 1930s.

“The boxwood is not just a plant. It’s part of Virginia’s cultural heritage,” said Chuanxue Hong, Extension specialist in ornamental horticulture at the Hampton Roads Agricultural Research and Extension Center.

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Henrico County youth learn the business of babysitting

Teen participants sitting at a table with baby dolls.

More than 240 youth have completed babysitting training since the Henrico County program began in in 2010.

The young entrepreneurs who attended Virginia Cooperative Extension’s babysitting training in Henrico County got more than just a new set of babysitting skills — they got a sense of confidence.

“It was a great learning experience. It was informative and all-around fun,” said one Henrico County participant who is starting to earn money by babysitting.

But while babysitting can be an excellent source of additional income, it can also be difficult work full of various unplanned events. Participating in babysitting training can help youth be better prepared for the job.

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Campbell County pesticide certification program for inmates yields promising results

For inmates leaving prison, reintegrating into the community is a challenging transition — not only in Virginia, but nationwide. After spending time behind bars, prisoners can find it difficult to reconnect with family members, find employment, and resist the behavior that resulted in their imprisonment.

Virginia Cooperative Extension agents in Central Virginia had already been working with the staff and inmates at the greenhouse and garden facilities at Rustburg Correctional Unit 9 in Campbell County for several years and saw a need to further support inmates in their community re-entry efforts. They decided to implement a pesticide applicator certification program designed to equip inmates with job skills to make it easier for them to find employment upon their release.

The certification program is a collaborative effort between the Virginia Department of Corrections, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and Virginia Cooperative Extension.

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