The Community, Local, & Regional Food Systems Photo Contest Winners are Out and the Calendar is Available!

A goal of the Community, Local, and Regional Food Systems Steering Committee is to increase awareness of food systems work happening across Virginia.  In an effort to collect photos and celebrate the fun, freshness, people, and innovation of Virginia’s food system, we hosted a photo contest!

June through November, we collected images from across the state with 14 winners in mind.  The overall winning image was to receive a free 3-minute professional video for their food system project.  We also compiled swag bags with water bottles, measuring spoons, aprons, and more for the winning photos in each category: Fun, Freshness, People, and Innovation.  These five images plus nine more would be featured in the 2019 Community, Local, and Regional Food Systems calendar!

With so many submissions, the competition was tough!  We closed the submission window in November and winners were announced at the Virginia Farm to Table Conference.  We are happy to announce the winners!

Overall Winner: Riverstone Farm, Floyd County

Fun Category Winner: South Boston Farmers Market, Halifax County

Freshness Category Winner: Fields Edge Farm, Floyd County

People Category Winner: Blacksburg Farmers Market, Montgomery County

Innovation Category Winner: The Farm at Willow Run, Rockingham County

The other nine winners will be posted on Facebook throughout the year.  If you can’t wait, email Kelli Scott at for a copy of the calendar if it’s not available at your local extension office!

Viewing a Farmacy Garden from the Dietetics Perspective

Volunteering at the Farmacy Garden has been one of the most fun and rewarding Dietetics assignments I’ve had. I loved that it was hand-on learning, and what was even more enjoyable was that everything I was learning felt very relevant to my career goal of working with nutrition education. My primary job as a garden volunteer was to work on what needed to get done in the garden and to help garden visitors during garden hours. I very much enjoyed getting to meet members of the Christiansburg/Montgomery County community as a garden volunteer. As a VT student, most of my daily interactions are with other VT students. As a garden volunteer, I met many people who lived in the area, which is a different experience than my VT bubble, and it made me feel more connected to and appreciative of the area. Everyone I met was friendly, and a few more experienced garden participants helps to teach me a lot about how the garden runs.

My family plants a garden most summers, so I had some gardening experience, but I learned a lot about growing food on a larger scale. We also only grow a few types of plants during the Summer, so I learned a lot about what goes into growing Fall/Winter vegetables. My family has also never grown berries, so harvesting from berry bushes was a new experience. My hope is to plant raspberry bushes in my own garden next summer, now that I know more about what goes into caring for them.  I feel like my own gardening learning shows just how much good the Farmacy garden can do. Obviously, providing fresh and health produce to community members is an important role. But teaching what goes into growing produce and getting people interested and invested in growing healthy food is just as important. And it’s a socially sustainable way of helping more people have access to fresh and nutritious food.

Helping with the garden was also interesting specifically as a dietetics student. I spend a lot of time learning about fruits and vegetables are healthy and how my future role as a dietitian will likely include trying to get people to incorporate more of these food groups into their diet. Basically, I spend a lot of time learning about the foods that are good for people. Working with growing these foods gave me insight about the process of what goes into producing the foods I learn so much about.

Post contributed by: Caroline Best

Farmacy Garden Promotes Healthy Lifestyle

A community garden is so much more than just a place for vegetables to grow.

Over the past few months, I have had the opportunity to work with the Farmacy Garden through my Virginia Tech Community Nutrition class. Even though we had discussed the idea of community gardens in previous nutrition-related courses, I had honestly never put too much thought into them before this experience, and wow was my mind opened.

Community gardens like the Farmacy Garden can be extremely beneficial to the community as a whole. From this experience I was able to learn about all the great things the Farmacy Garden does for the Montgomery County community. I was able to see first hand the positive impacts this garden has on its individual `community members.

Community gardens can provide access to fresh produce, strengthened community connections, and continued education. They also promote increased fruit and vegetable intake and increased physical activity, which can all lead to a healthier mind and body. Not to mention, the positive environmental impact these gardens create by promoting local and sustainable farming.

While all community gardens have a really great positive impact, the Farmacy Garden has some specifically great qualities. The use of garden prescriptions from the neighboring community clinic is a very creative and effective way to promote healthy behaviors without creating unnecessary costs.

Each time a community member came to the garden with their prescription, they were eager to learn about gardening and to take home fresh produce. I really enjoyed working closely with the community members. I was able to see how a seemingly simple idea of picking your own produce can have a much greater influence on both the individual and community level.

I didn’t expect spending a few hours each week digging in the dirt to translate to such a greater knowledge and understanding. I have really learned so much from my time working with the Farmacy Garden. Now that I have witnessed the vast benefits that community gardens can provide, I hope to be able to promote the use of them in my future as a dietitian!

Post contributed by: Christy Snook

#LocalFoodMatters PHOTO CONTEST

 By Joyce Latimer

You are invited to participate in a photo contest celebrating community, local, and regional food systems (CLRFS) In Virginia. The contest is sponsored by the Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) CLRFS Program Team.

There are four categories of photo opportunities which include:

  • Freshness – Capture the value, unique freshness, and availability of local foods.
  • Fun – Capture the joy and celebration of local foods.
  • People – Show the diversity of people engaged throughout the local food system.
  • Innovation – Illustrate innovations in growing, processing, marketing, distribution, access, and utilization of local foods.
  • Prizes will be awarded for the overall best photo and the top photo in each category. For Overall Best Photo the prize is a 3-minute professional video of a local foods event of your choice with time and location to be arranged between the winner and Zeke Barlow, CALS Communications. The top photo in each category will receive a swag bag of assorted goodies collected from VCE and our partners.

In addition, the top three (3) photos in each category will be featured in a 2019 Virginia Community, Local, and Regional Food Systems Calendar to be distributed at the 2018 Farm-to-Table Conference; additional honorable mention photos may be included.

Photo submissions will be accepted June 1st through November 2nd from VCE employees and their community partners. Videos or video clips are welcome, but will not be eligible for the contest prizes.


Submissions are open to VCE faculty and their partners in local food systems work. All photos submitted for the contest may be used in VCE and Virginia Tech marketing. All photos must be of events/activities located in Virginia and the submitting person must have the right to share the photo. Photos must be submitted between June 1st and November 2nd, 2018. Each participant may submit up to three (3) images for the contest. However, additional images are welcome.

Images should be of high quality, in focus and of the highest resolution possible, which usually means the original size. Set your camera or phone for the largest file format.

All submissions must include a caption that includes:

  • Name of the photographer
  • The locality (VCE unit and/or location of photo)
  • Names of identifiable people (media releases must be kept by the VCE faculty; clients may defer from having their names used in the caption). For more information on media releases and a media release form, visit
  • Name/description of the event/activity
  • Two contest tags:
  • the campaign name – #LocalFoodMatters and,
  • the category to which your photo is being submitted using #LocalFoodLooksLike(name of photo category). Category names are Freshness, Fun, People, and Innovations.

Submissions for the photo contest is a 2-step process:

VCE agents are asked to encourage their community partners to participate in VCE photos and to submit their own photos of local foods activities. Photos showing cooperation and collaboration between VCE and community groups are especially encouraged. The attached flier may be shared with community partners to assist them in submitting their photos for the contest.


For contest consideration, photos must be submitted to both the CLRFS Facebook page and the CLRFS Google drive between June 1 and November 2, 2018. Winners will be notified by November 20th.

Photo scoring will be based on quality, resolution, creativity/originality, fit with program theme and/or category, and overall impact.


Submitted photos will be posted on the Facebook page at our discretion to provide a range of photo topics over any given time. Images will also be shared on the CLRFS Instagram account.

We reserve the right to eliminate images considered inappropriate or not owned by the submitting party, and to change the category of submission of any photo. Images submitted without a complete caption will be disqualified.

Video clips may be submitted to the google drive. Although not part of the contest, we are seeking clips for the creation of videos for promotion and marketing of community, local, and regional food systems. Please submit with the requested caption information.

If you have any problems, contact us on Facebook or email

Norfolk Teens With a Purpose (TWP) Gardening Program

By Chris Epes, Associate Extension Agent – Horticulture, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Norfolk, VA

Think of Norfolk, Virginia and you think of a lot of things – unrelated to nutrition problems. It’s home to the world’s largest naval station. Norfolk is military. Located in the heart of Hampton Roads, Norfolk is one of the most important shipping hubs in the world. Norfolk is blue-collar. Norfolk is as urban as it gets in America.

What outsiders may not know is that Norfolk has its fair share, and more, of the kinds of systemic problems that plague urban communities, in addition to essentially being ground zero for sea-level rise. Norfolk faces many challenges. Violent crime, single-income households and nutrition related disease and mortality rates in Norfolk are well above state averages. Not surprisingly, this goes hand in hand with the prevalence of fast food and convenience store-laden neighborhoods as well as food deserts in the area. Read more.

Organizing a Farm to Table Meal (Part 2)

In a previous blog Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Megan Dunford, Virginia Farm to Table Coordinator, and Eric Bendfeldt, Community Viability Extension Specialist, provided thoughts for planning a farm to table meal. In Part two, they go into greater detail on tickets, marketing, and print resources for the event.

Things to Consider

Will you sell tickets? In addition to recovering event costs, proceeds from sales could also benefit area agriculture, a local farmers market, or healthy food access programs, like SNAP acceptance or matching value programs at area farmers markets.

  • Is there a maximum number of tickets that can be sold and will they be sold in advance?
    • Consideration should be given to the number of guests the venue can comfortably fit and the number of participating food vendors. By offering pre-sale tickets, you streamline the purchasing process, create positive “buzz” for the event, can monitor registration numbers leading up to the event, and help attendees focus on enjoying their experience once they arrive. Printed tickets could be sold in advance at a local farmers market, grocery store, etc. Online ticket sales can allow for payment flexibility and the chance to reach new audiences who might prefer to sign up for events virtually. Read more.

WEBINAR: Supporting Local Food Councils: A New Professional Development Course

SPEAKERS: Jodee Ellett, Purdue University and Kendra Wills, Michigan State University

January 15, 2018 – 12:00 PM Eastern Time

Jodee Ellett, Local Foods Program Director with Purdue University, and I are launching a new, online professional development course to help Extension and community development colleagues build local food councils. Over 20 experts have contributed to the development of this course, including experts from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. We are so grateful for these contributions and the support of the North Central Regional Center for Rural Development to create this self-paced learning tool. Read more.

The Shop Smart Eat Smart Healthy Food Retail Program is starting in Virginia

By Liza Dobson, Healthy Food Retail Coordinator, Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Family Nutrition Program, Lynchburg

The Family Nutrition Program’s (FNP) ( mission is to teach limited-resource families and youth to make healthier food choices and become better managers of available food resources for optimal health and growth. Our programs focus on basic nutrition, physical activity, safe food handling, and thrifty food shopping.  FNP Program Assistants conduct educational programming in schools, community centers, foodbanks, farmers markets, community gardens, and numerous other venues, contributing to the reduction of healthcare costs for 148,000 SNAP-eligible Virginians.

While the FNP works to help shape healthy behavior, we also understand why practicing these behaviors is challenging. Many areas across the United States are considered “food deserts” (a term no longer used by the USDA), where some low-income families also have low food-access.  While income and distance from a grocery store are two main factors, we also know that food quality, price, and preparation knowledge are just as important.  All of these factors influence a household’s or community’s “food environment.”  Read more

Using a “Food Shed” Concept to Frame the Regional Food System

By Ned Savage, AmeriCorps VISTA, Local Environmental Agriculture Project (LEAP)

Those of us participating in the Local Environmental Agriculture Project (LEAP), in Roanoke, find the concept of a “food shed” to be helpful when considering our regional food system. A food shed is defined as how food moves between producer and consumer. In the Roanoke region, we have defined our food shed as the cities of Roanoke and Salem and the contiguous counties of Roanoke, Bedford, Botetourt, Craig, Montgomery, Floyd, and Franklin.

Within our regional food system, a number of counties and communities have done food system assessments/studies and food system plans. Many of these studies are helpful in understanding local- and county-level issues, but if we only think in hyper local terms, then we end up with a piecemeal approach to food system planning. Food does not stop at county or city lines and the infrastructure and connections that sustain strong food systems have to cross political lines. In the fall of 2016, LEAP compiled the existing data, research and plans from throughout the region into one consolidated report that identifies common trends, key barriers, and potential opportunities.

The Roanoke Local Regional Food and Agriculture report, while helpful in considering the state of our regional food system, was notable for its lack of one key voice – the farmer’s.  While LEAP has long been engaged in providing additional market outlets for local farmers, we wanted to hear directly from producers what barriers, struggles, and challenges they face to running viable farm businesses, and what else our organization could do to support them and their work. And so, in close collaboration with Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE), we researched other models and designed and held a series of Farmer Listening Sessions. Read more.

Organizing a Farm to Table Meal

By Megan Dunford – Virginia Farm to Table Coordinator, Virginia Cooperative Extension & Eric Bendfeldt – Extension Specialist, Community Viability, Virginia Cooperative Extension

There is no denying that the farm to table trend and its impacts have taken root in communities throughout Virginia, and across the United States. Farm to table meals have the potential to generate grassroots support for area farms, farmers markets, and local food programs. While sharing a thoughtfully prepared meal, community members have the chance to bond and reconnect over a region’s shared agriculture. If the perfect storm of local food advocates presents itself, use these suggestions as a starting point to organize a Farm to Table meal and event in your own community. Read more.