Author Archives: maraea

Energy Masters Program closes out 2016 with recognition and awards


The Energy Masters program received awards for leadership in energy efficiency from the Virginia Governor’s Housing Conference Awards and the state’s inaugural Virginia Energy Efficiency Awards, attended by Governor McAuliffe.  

Energy Masters, a joint program of Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment (ACE), Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) and Arlington THRIVE, was honored on November 17, 2016, at the Virginia Governor’s Housing Conference, with the Best Affordable Housing Energy Conservation Effort award, which recognizes innovative, effective efforts that address housing needs in the state. The program received a second award from the first-ever Virginia Energy Efficiency Leadership Awards on November 29, 2016. The program was awarded third place in the Low-Income Category. This award acknowledges demonstrated commitment to energy conservation and prudent use of resources in the renovation of affordable housing properties. Affordable housing properties that have participated in the Energy Masters program are realizing benefits from the energy and water saving services performed by volunteers through increased energy efficiency and a decrease in utility bills totaling $39,623 that was reflected in a 2016 analysis. The program serves residents in Arlington County and the City of Alexandria.

Energy Masters program coordinator, Laura Garcia Olson, acknowledged how important these awards are for the growth of the program: “The Energy Masters program is an example of actions individuals can take to impact climate change in our community. We’re hopeful that the awards recognition will help bring more attention to tactics to save energy and the importance of adopting a sustainable lifestyle.”

The Energy Masters program is a highly successful model that educates citizens how to save energy and conserve water and provides community engagement and volunteer activism. It directly addresses climate change and water conservation, improves the lives of residents living in affordable housing and builds stronger community connections by engaging volunteers in service projects. The program provides volunteers with extensive training in energy efficiency and water conservation, which they use in service to the community by making improvements to affordable housing buildings and by providing education. It also helps low-income families reduce their energy and water bills and improve the comfort of their homes. Energy Masters encourages behavior change in residents of all ages, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, thereby reducing the carbon footprint of the residents and conserving resources, which benefits the entire community.

To learn more about Energy Masters and how you can get involved, visit the website at


VCE and SNAP at local farmers’ markets

Bonus Cash for SNAP/EBT Purchases

Local farmers’ markets are a great way to get great produce and support local farmers but did you know that Arlington and Alexandria Farmers’ markets accept SNAP/EBT (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) cards for purchases? SNAP/EBT customers can purchase farm fresh produce at local area farmers’ markets and get matching bonus tokens to add to their purchases.

Virginia Cooperative will be on-site at several local farmers’ markets of Alexandria and Arlington to provide more information on SNAP and offer food tastings, prizes and more!

  • Arlington Farmers’ Market, N 14th & Courthouse Rd – 2nd Saturday of the month
  • Old Town Farmers’ Market, 301 King St – last Saturday of the month
  • Columbia Pike Farmers’ Market, 2820 Columbia Pike – 3rd Sunday of the month

Virginia Cooperative Extension’s varied programs are all supported by community volunteers. No experience is required to volunteer; VCE provides training and volunteer resources. Interested volunteers can find out more at


photo credit: Meredith A. Muckerman

Accolades for Virginia Cooperative Extension

It was a clean sweep for Virginia Cooperative Extension at the George Mason University Go Gaga for Green awards for its efforts promoting environmental sustainability. VCE staff and volunteers won in all three award categories, Individual, Organization and People’s Choice.

Extension Agent and Unit Coordinator, Jennifer Abel, was awarded the Arlington Green Patriot Award for her sustainability efforts both professionally and personally. Jennifer actively volunteers for several local environmentally focused organizations including the Mt. Vernon Group of the Sierra Club and ACE R4 task force. In 2011, Jennifer co-founded the award winning Energy Masters program. In the five years since its inception, more than 150 volunteers have retrofitted almost 600 low income apartments to improve energy efficiency and reduce tenants’ utility bills. The program now operates in both Arlington County and the City of Alexandria. To learn more about the Energy Masters program, visit

Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia took both the Organization and People’s Choice awards. The non profit works with Extension Agent Kirsten Conrad Buhls and supports VCE volunteer efforts to educate the public about sustainable landscape management practices and home food production. MGNV support funds 5 demonstration gardens around Arlington and the City of Alexandria. The public can visit the gardens to learn more about various plants and gardening techniques. MGNV has also developed the Tried & True Native Plant fact sheets that provide homeowners with detailed information on how to incorporate native plants into the home landscape. To find out more about MGNV and the Tried & Trues, visit

Virginia Cooperative Extension’s varied programs are all supported by community volunteers. No experience is required to volunteer; VCE provides training and volunteer resources. Interested volunteers can find out more at

What’s Cooking at the Old Town Farmers’ Market?

mfv final

MFV Rosa Lee Ford

Spring has sprung at Virginia Cooperative Extension and many of our programs are gearing up for a busy season. Master Food Volunteers began the market demonstration season at the Old Town Alexandria Farmers’ Market this past weekend. Fun fact: Did you know that the Old Town Farmers’ Market is the oldest in nation? It has been held in the same location for the past 260 years!


MFV and event organizer Kim Frey, MFV Anne Augusterfer and one of our newest Alexandria MFVs Rosa Lee Ford dished up servings of raw beet salad. You can find Master Food Volunteers preparing healthy recipes from fresh, in season produce on the last Saturday of every month through November. If you missed the demonstration, don’t worry. Just get some fresh beets on your next grocery or market trip and try out the recipe. It’s a healthy and delicious side dish for any barbecue or picnic.

Raw Beet Salad Recipe (courtesy of Food Network)

Ingredients (yield: 4 servings)

1 pound beets
1 large shallot
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, or to taste
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or other good strong vinegar
About 1 tablespoon minced parsley, dill, or chervil; or about 1 teaspoon minced rosemary or tarragon

Peel the beets and the shallot. Combine them in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, and pulse carefully until the beets are shredded; do not puree. (Or grate the beets by hand and mince the shallots; combine.) Scrape into a bowl.

Toss with the salt, pepper, mustard, oil, and vinegar. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Toss in the herbs and serve.

Recipe courtesy of Mark Bittman’s THE MINIMALIST COOKS DINNER (Broadway, 2001) and Food Network

Russian Delegation Visits VCE Arlington

At the end of January, VCE Arlington had the pleasure of hosting a delegation from Russia and showing them the valuable work that Extension does in our community. The visit was sponsored by the U.S.-Russia Peer-to-Peer Program and funded through a grant that Extension was jointly awarded from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. The two day visit was packed with activities.

The visit began with a volunteer showcase where Extension and partner organization volunteers talked about their programs and volunteer experiences. Presentations were given by volunteers and leaders from Master Gardeners, Master Food Volunteers, Master Financial Education Volunteers, Energy Masters, Master Naturalists and 4-H. Hard to believe that all of those organizations are affiliated with VCE Arlington!

After a lunch prepared by our own Master Food Volunteers, our guests visited officials from an important Extension partner, Arlington County, and continued to see Extension in action with a visit to the Save the Earth 4-H Club at Barrett Elementary School.

Saturday’s activities included a visit to see the work done at AFAC where Master Food Volunteers give regular healthy food demonstrations. The agenda continued to be food as they attended a training for the upcoming 4-H Food Challenge. They rounded out the day with a visit to Wakefield High School for the ACE Energy Journey Game.

Our agents and volunteers appreciated the interest and feedback from our Russian visitors and we hope that the visit was a valuable one for them as well.

They are on to further US travels in Ohio and Utah to meet with nonprofits in those states and we wish them safe (and hopefully warmer) travels.

MFEV Bill Guey-Lee talking about his experiences

MFEV Bill Guey-Lee talking about his experiences

Volunteer Showcase

Volunteer Showcase

visit to the Barrett Elem. 4-H Club

visit to the Barrett Elem. 4-H Club

Fairlington Day Festivities

Virginia Cooperative Extension participated in Fairlington Day this past weekend. Agents and volunteers showcased Extension Arlington’s many faces by preparing delicious healthy eats, giving tours of the food gardens, organizing 4-H kids’ activities and providing information on the many great programs we coordinate. Getting out into the community and sharing information is what we do so if you have an event coming up that you would like us to participate in, please get in touch with our Marketing and Communications Associate,