Communities in the Northern Neck knew they had a problem. Young people were leaving because of a lack of jobs, the current workforce needed additional education, and there were few opportunities for those who wanted to stay in the area.
Furniture-maker Andrew Pitts is a member of the Northern Neck Artisan Trail.
Four years ago these communities took steps to improve the situation by participating in the Stronger Economies Together program, which has allowed them to build a blueprint for regional economic success.
Today, the Northern Neck is putting its plan into action by engaging partners and leveraging the strengths of this diverse region. Communities have come together to form the Northern Neck Artisan Trail, which highlights the creative talents, foods, and agricultural products of the region, and to participate in the emerging Virginia Oyster Trail. The new trail offers visitors a way to enjoy Virginia’s seven different oyster regions, as well as to experience the unique culture of watermen in the Chesapeake Bay.
The region has received grant support from the USDA and the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development to create the Northern Neck Loan Fund to help emerging entrepreneurs and small businesses gain access to capital. The USDA recognized the Northern Neck Economic Development Plan for its commitment to strengthening the area’s economies and identified it as a model plan for the program.
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Virginia Tech’s recent discovery of abnormally high amounts of lead in the Flint, Michigan, water system has made safe drinking water a hot topic. But while the water in Flint came from a municipal source, private water systems, such as wells, springs, and cisterns, are not immune to this problem.
Emily Hutchins of Blacksburg, Virginia, fills water collection bottles.
Testing conducted though Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Virginia Household Water Quality Program has found high levels of lead in private systems around the state.
Kelsey Pieper, a researcher on the Flint team who received her doctorate from Virginia Tech, was the primary author on the study that found 1 in 5 private systems had lead concentrations above the Environmental Protection Agency standard for municipal systems. About 45 percent of the samples contained coliform bacteria and 10 percent contained E. coli.
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Through the program students learn how to collect and analyze water samples.
More than 60 high school students and 4-H members from Carroll, Floyd, and Amherst counties had an opportunity to spend a day at Virginia Tech to expand their understanding of water quality, its associated health factors, and water sampling through the youth component of the Virginia Household Water Quality Program.
The program, a collaborative effort between Virginia Cooperative Extension and Virginia Tech, provides a hands-on learning experience in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering’s Water Quality Laboratory. Students analyze water samples, learn how to interpret the data collected, and review the results from a health perspective. In addition, guest lecturers address related topics such as groundwater, well construction, food safety related to water quality, and the many career opportunities in fields related to water.
BLACKSBURG, Va., May 1, 2015 – More than 150 major rivers and streams flow into the Chesapeake Bay, Virginia’s most well-known estuary. This historically significant body of water has also provided livelihoods for fishermen, recreation for locals and visitors that flock to the region, and of course has been a vital water source for residents for hundreds of years.
The environmental woes of recent decades, however, have made the bay more memorable for the major challenges that have been foisted upon its delicate ecosystem.
Virginia Tech researchers in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences have been working on several fronts to develop novel strategies to preserve the Chesapeake Bay while also implementing ways to balance population growth with sustainable uses of the bay, including as a water, food, and recreation resource.
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Water quality analysis for the Virginia Household Water Quality Program takes place in the Biological Systems Engineering Water Quality lab on campus.
Written by Emily Halstead, a junior in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and a communications intern for Virginia Cooperative Extension.
Since 1989, the Virginia Household Water Quality Program has been educating homeowners about their responsibility for and maintenance of private water systems. A collaborative effort among Virginia Cooperative Extension’s family and consumer science agents, agricultural and natural resource agents, and 4-H agents, the program is offered annually in more than 50 counties throughout the state.
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