Phillip K. Blevins receives Alumni Award for Excellence in Extension

Phillip K. Blevins

Phillip K. Blevins, unit coordinator and Extension agent in agriculture and natural resources for the Virginia Cooperative Extension, has received the 2017 Alumni Award for Excellence in Extension.

Sponsored by the Virginia Tech Alumni Association, the Alumni Award for Excellence in Extension is presented annually to two Virginia Cooperative Extension faculty members who have made outstanding contributions to the land-grant mission of the university. One award goes to an Extension specialist and the other is given to an Extension agent. Each award winner receives $2,000.

Blevins responds to the needs of the community through extensive programming. Beef cattle is a major commodity in Washington County, Virginia, so Blevins has dedicated a significant amount of time to enhancing this area. In 2010, he initiated the Master Cattleman program, which provides educational foundations for more than 400 participants, as well as giving producers hands-on workshops with experts.

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Extension is ahead of the curve on new food safety rules

Adrianna Vargo, director of grower services at Charlottesville’s Local Food Hub, has collaborated with Virginia Cooperative Extension to get critical information to growers regarding the Food and Drug Administration’s new Food Safety Modernization Act. Its aim is to make the food supply safer by shifting the focus from responding to food contamination problems to preventing them from occurring. The policy is the most sweeping reform of U.S. food safety laws for both human and animal foods in 70 years.

As part of its grower services program, the Local Food Hub’s Adrianna Vargo conducts a mock audit of Singing Earth Farm in Augusta County.

As part of its grower services program, the Local Food Hub’s Adrianna Vargo conducts a mock audit of Singing Earth Farm in Augusta County.

Vargo and Extension have acted as boots-on-the-ground liaisons for more than 60 growers throughout Virginia and in North Carolina by providing critical workshops to ensure producers will be able to comply with FSMA legislation.

“One of the aspects of this legislation that has been a huge concern for growers is water testing. FSMA requires so many more water tests throughout the growing season,” Vargo said. “Extension has been an invaluable resource for training. They have been very inclusive and responsive to growers’ needs.”

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Private donor helps Virginia Family Nutrition Program give cookware to families in need

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Family Nutrition Program participants learn healthy living strategies including healthy cooking, physical activity, and thrifty food shopping.

Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Family Nutrition Program recently launched a new pilot program called Let’s Get Cookin’. The program, taught by Family Nutrition Program Assistants in northern Virginia, focuses on healthy living strategies including healthy cooking, physical activity, and thrifty food shopping. At the end of each program series, participants who complete the entire course will receive a cookware set.

This initiative began in August 2016, when the Family Nutrition Program received a call from a private donor who wanted to contribute to the program. Since the Family Nutrition Program works with limited-resource families and SNAP recipients, the donor suggested giving cookware sets as an incentive to participants who completed the programs.

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Virginia Cooperative Extension provides training in facilitation skills

Leading an organization, community group, or gathering of any size can be stressful and frustrating without the skills necessary to engage and manage a group.

To help make meetings more productive, Virginia Cooperative Extension is offering a two-day training that teaches effective facilitation principles and practices.

The Strengthening Your Facilitation Skills training offers participants the opportunity to learn and demonstrate facilitation skills, observe facilitation challenges, and identify practices that will prepare them to develop and guide the facilitation process. Those who have completed the program report feeling more comfortable planning and leading meetings.

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Virginia Tech Beef Cattle Center earns 2017 AICA Outstanding Seedstock Producer Award

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Dan Eversole (left) teaches students like John-Robert Helsley about Charolais cattle

The Virginia Tech Beef Cattle Center received the 2017 Outstanding Seedstock Producer Award at the annual membership meeting of the American-International Charolais Association in Corpus Christi, Texas, this spring. Dan Eversole, associate professor of animal and poultry sciences and director of beef cattle programs, received the award on behalf of the university.

The Beef Cattle Center’s Charolais herd consists of 40 purebred breeding-age females. Charolais were introduced to the Virginia Tech Beef Cattle Center in 1998 through donations and the support of Charolais breeders across the country, led by the late Mary diZerega of Oakdale Farm in Upperville, Virginia.  Charolais, a breed of taurine beef cattle from the Charolais area in eastern France, are white colored and are often crossbred with Angus and Hereford cattle.

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