Author Archives: Lori Greiner

Brian Hairston recognized for commitment to youth mentoring

Lopez presents Hairston the youth mentoring award

Cody Lopez, associate director for programming for College Mentors for Kids (right) presents Brian Hairston, Virginia Cooperative Extension 4-H youth development agent in Henry County/Martinsville, the Inspire Award for Youth Mentoring award.

College Mentors for Kids presented Brian Hairston, Virginia Cooperative Extension 4-H youth development agent in Henry County/Martinsville, its Youth Mentoring award as part of its 2017 Inspire Awards celebration held Feb. 23 in Indianapolis. Seven inspiring community leaders were named Mentors of the Year for mentoring excellence in the workplace and community by College Mentors for Kids.

Hairston was recognized by multiple mentees for mentoring through the 4-H program. “Brian Hairston is one of the most inspiring, down to earth people I know. He not only pushes you to go beyond your limited, but he is there with a helping hand along the way. He sees your abilities and potential before you do and never gives up on the bright future he sees ahead for you. Mr. Hairston has opened many doors for me by making me escape my comfort zone to go above and beyond in order to reach my goals.”

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VSU Makes It Easier for Urban Farmers to Get Certified

Dr. Leonard Githinji, VSU's Urban Agriculture Extension Specialist, is spearheading the new academic-based certification program to help urban farmers and educators successfully grow safe food in an urban environment, while increasing their marketability in this growing field.

Dr. Leonard Githinji, VSU’s Urban Agriculture Extension Specialist, is spearheading the new academic-based certification program to help urban farmers and educators successfully grow safe food in an urban environment, while increasing their marketability in this growing field.

Urban agriculture is hot. And for good reason. It can help alleviate urban food deserts, make our food as “local” and fresh as possible and decrease the “food miles” associated with long-distance transportation. From rooftop gardens and aquaponics centers in converted warehouses, to growing crops on abandoned properties, urban agriculture provides a wide range of community benefits, including closer neighborhood ties, reduced crime, education and job training opportunities, and healthy food access for low-income residents.

“That’s why,” say’s Dr. Leonard Githinji, Virginia State University’s Urban Agriculture Extension Specialist, “It’s no wonder we’re seeing a huge increase in the number of urban farms from Brooklyn to Boise and everywhere in between.”

But training hasn’t kept up with demand for these urban cowboys. As Githinji explains, a lot of non-profits, churches, businesses and municipalities are putting a great deal of resources into getting urban farms up and running. So much so that last year the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published an Urban Agriculture Toolkit to provide informational resources to these group leaders, many of whom have never farmed before or know a nematode from a horned toad. (For the record, a nematode is parasitic worm that often causes damage to garden crops like tomatoes and peppers. A horned toad is actually a desert lizard.)

But there’s a lot to learn, he explains, from business planning, legal issues and market development to soil quality, pest management and plant health. And while an online tool kit is a great resource, we need more science-based, boots-on-the-ground training for these urban pioneers.

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4-H’ers seek to nominate the Shenandoah Salamander as the state salamander

The Salamander Savers 4-H Club invites Delegate Bulova to attend Salamander Saturday. From left to right: Bela Kekesi, Jonah Kim, Delegate Bulova, Jacob Snawder, Gabriel Kim, Sam Kim, and Anna Kim

The Salamander Savers 4-H Club invites Delegate Bulova to attend Salamander Saturday. From left to right: Bela Kekesi, Jonah Kim, Delegate Bulova, Jacob Snawder, Gabriel Kim, Sam Kim, and Anna Kim

When Salamander Savers 4-H club went to the state capital last month, they had an idea. Why not use this opportunity to talk about what they love- salamanders! Four members of the group spoke to various delegates and senators trying to persuade them to help Salamander Savers nominate the Shenandoah Salamander as the state salamander.

Following the advice of Delegate Bulova, Salamander Savers will try again in October (when new legislation is considered), in hopes that a legislator will sponsor a bill in either the House or the Senate. In the meantime, the group will continue to do outreach programs, like Salamander Saturday on May 6 at Hidden Pond Nature Center (savethesalamanders.weebley.com), where they will talk to the public about what makes state-salamander2salamanders special and how anyone can help save the salamanders. If any other groups in Virginia are interested in helping the Salamander Savers advocate for the Shenandoah Salamander by passing out flyers, talking to your local legislators, or just telling friends, they would love your help. Please contact Anna Kim (puedosonar@gmail.com) for more information.

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4-H Day at the State Capitol offers members an inside glimpse of Virginia’s legislative branch

4-H members and volunteers at the annual 4-H Day at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond.

4-H members and volunteers at the annual 4-H Day at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond.

Eager 4-H members and volunteers from across the state will descend on Virginia’s capitol Jan. 24 to meet their legislators and learn about Virginia’s government at the annual 4-H Day at the State Capitol.

The trip to Richmond, sponsored by Virginia 4-H, gives participants the opportunity to become more familiar with the legislative process and to express their gratitude to state delegates and senators who support 4-H youth development programs. This year’s attendance is expected to surpass 1,000 members and volunteers.

“4-H citizenship projects and opportunities, such as 4-H Day at the State Capitol, empower young people to be well-informed citizens who are actively engaged in their communities. This trip allows members to see firsthand how our state government works,” said Cathy Sutphin, associate director of 4-H Youth Development with Virginia Cooperative Extension.

This year’s 4-H Day at the State Capitol will include a rally on the steps of the capitol. Virginia’s first lady, Dorothy McAuliffe; Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Sandra Adams; Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Basil Gooden; and Virginia Tech President Tim Sands have been invited to greet 4-H’ers. Members will also participate in various tours, attend House and Senate sessions, and visit other historical sites of interest in Richmond.

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The sky’s the limit at 4-H camp where kids learn about life, the universe, and everything in between

boy looking into homemade paper rocket

These days, 4-H’ers are learning about STEM activities such as rocket science in this classroom in the Northern Virginia 4-H Educational Center.

Rocket science requires lots of high-tech instruments, but when you’re a young 4-H’er, there’s one thing that is essential to your airborne creation’s design.

“We’ve got stickers over here to decorate your rocket,” said Spencer Gee, 20, from Tazewell, Virginia, a camp counselor at the Northern Virginia 4-H Educational Center outside of Front Royal.

Gee is teaching a Create, Innovate, Solve class where the kids are using nothing but PVC pipe, construction paper, Scotch tape, a 2-liter soda bottle, and, most importantly, their imaginations to make rockets and study the principles of physics.

“I love teaching this class,” said Gee. “I give open-ended directions, and the campers take the initiative to construct the rocket the way they want.”

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