In a Senegalese village, children grow vegetable seedlings and organize traditional wrestling events as fundraisers in a positive youth development initiative modeled after Virginia Cooperative Extension’s 4-H program.
Virginia Cooperative Extension senior 4-H youth development agent Ruth Wallace (left) poses with a group of children and adults in Senegal. In March of this year, Extension and the 4-H Positive Youth Development in Agriculture Program traveled to the West African nation to scale up programming in the region. Reggie Morris, 4-H youth development Extension agent in Alexandria, Virginia, is pictured in the second row, second from right.
At the Ndoumbouji primary school, the main focus is gardening.
“The teachers told us that every break they have, the students run to the garden,” said Ozzie Abaye, a Virginia Tech professor in the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences. “The group wants to try to expand the garden project outside of the campus.”
Through activities such as gardening and leadership training, 4-H’s international programming has helped to improve thousands of lives around the globe.
Kathleen Jamison, professor emerita and 4-H youth development specialist, and her team completed training workshops in March designed to scale up the programs’ outreach efforts throughout Senegal.
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As Virginia Cooperative Extension agent Twandra Lomax was shopping in a Richmond Farm Fresh, she was recognized by a previous student.
“You taught my homebuyers class at Southside,” the woman said. “I closed on my first house last week.”
She was one of 34 students in the Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Homebuyers Education class that went on to purchase a home in the City of Richmond in 2015.
The class, formed in collaboration with Richmond’s Southside Community Development and Housing Corporation, focuses on credit, personal finances, the role of the lender and realtor, home maintenance, home inspection, home appraisal, the closing process, foreclosure, and the Fair Housing Act of Virginia.
Two sessions of the class are held each month and are taught by experts in the field. Participants leave the class prepared to start working on credit concerns that could prevent them from qualifying for mortgage loans. At the end of the class, students work directly with a counselor to address any lingering concerns.
More than 700 agricultural leaders from across the country will gather in Virginia Beach September 20-22 to identify ways to secure the future success of our nation’s small farms and ranches, numbers of which have been dwindling for decades, while the number of very large farms has seen rapid growth.
The conference specifically focuses on small farmers because of the vital role they play in the national economy, environmental sustainability, local (agro-) biodiversity, and landscape and cultural heritage. Yet they face unique challenges that set them apart from mid-size or large farming operations.
According to the USDA, a small farm is any farm whose gross cash farm income is less than $350,000. Farms who generate more than that annually are considered commercial farms. A whopping 89 percent of U.S. farms are considered small and operate nearly half of the country’s farmland, however those farms account for only 22 percent of agricultural production in the U.S.
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Ten years ago, an endowment was created to help communities across the commonwealth and beyond be more sustainable and resilient through partnerships with Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and local community members.
Since its inception in 2004, the endowment, which has grown to more than $2 million, has provided income to fund numerous projects that foster partnerships and spur creative research at the granular level. It has also provided seed money for an array of projects with wide-ranging impacts.
“A gift like this can get lots of different projects started,” said Rick Rudd, head of the Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education and the Virginia Cooperative Extension Professor of Excellence in Community Viability, a position funded by the endowment. “We are helping people leverage resources.”
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Virginia Cooperative Extension was recently recognized by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture for its commitment to strengthening rural economies.
The award recognizes an Extension initiative called Stronger Economies Together, a program that promotes collaboration among rural communities by pooling shared economic assets among municipalities and expanding the vision of local policymakers in rural areas to think regionally beyond their own counties.
The team was recognized at a ceremony at the NIFA Day of Appreciation in Washington, D.C.
“We place high value on the teams of researchers and other individuals who have enacted positive change on the future of agriculture and science through their work,” Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, said in a news release.